January 23, 2007
State Senate needs to act on ‘Bigger Better Bottle Bill'
In 2005, the state Assembly passed A2517 “The Bigger Better Bottle Bill.” It is Bigger and Better because it includes non-carbonated drinks, which had not been included in the original Bottle Bill. A2517 (Senate 1290) was not acted on in the Senate. In May 2006, it was passed again and delivered to the Senate. So far, no action. I have always been in favor of charging 5 cents for returnable bottles and cans. It seems a no-brainer to me. But I have heard claims about how expanding the Bottle Bill would hurt the beverage industry.
In the past two summers I have helped the Friends of Robert H. Treman State Park with their project to sort containers left at the park. We use the money raised for projects that benefit the park. As we sort through bag after bag, we learn a lot about what beverages are popular these days! Beers and wine coolers have catchy titles to attract consumers (like “Sweaty Betty” from Boulder); there are six to eight different sizes of beer cans; there are even plastic beer bottles.
Because we sort out the returnables, we also get to see what is not returnable: water bottles, iced tea cans, lemonade and juice cans, beer bottles from out-of-state (think how close we are to Pennsylvania), wine bottles (only wine coolers are returnable), “health beverages” like Gatorade, anything Snapple (because it has no “fizz”). We fill trash can after trash can of these recyclable containers, which the park then trucks off to the recycling station. It is impossible not to notice that an iced tea can makes exactly the same litter as a beer can — it must cost exactly the same to produce — and it contains the same amount of aluminum, which is a very costly metal to refine. Reusing aluminum is one of the best ways to protect the environment.
When I saw that the Bigger Better Bottle Bill had passed the Assembly, I called Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton's office to see if I could get some facts about all these non-returnables we have to handle. She has provided me with reports from the Container Recycling Institute (container-recycling.org), which answer every objection to expanding our current Bottle Bill, except for the lobbying power of the beverage industry, which currently keeps all the deposit money for unreturned returnables and can use it to influence politicians. Lifton's letter notes that “A study by the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency, which runs one of the best recycling programs in the country, found that on average only 20 percent of non-deposit beverage containers get recycled, compared with 80 percent of those with deposits.
I think it is high time for voters to rise up and demand the expanded recycling called for in the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, which also provides that unclaimed deposits (about $179 million per year) would go to the Environmental Protection Fund for dispersal to recycling and other environmental programs.
I urge readers to contact their state senators to let them know that the public wants more returnable containers, that the 5 cent deposit has been shown to have NO effect on the industry, that returnables support business as well, and that the public, not the industry, should benefit from unclaimed deposits. You can gather supporting information from the Container Recycling Institute Web site. Contact Sen. James Seward in Oneonta at 432-5524; Sen. George Winner Jr. in Elmira at 732-2765; and Sen. Michael Nozzolio in Seneca Falls at (888) 568-9816.