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November 11, 2007

The Record

Students use litter to promote expanded bottle law
By: Danielle Sanzone

ALBANY - To urge legislators to pass the bigger better bottle bill - which would expand the current 5-cent recycling bottle bill to also include non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water and sports drinks - a couple dozen student volunteers from the state University at Albany participated in a community litter cleanup to collect data on what proportion of the state's litter would be reduced by updating the bottle bill, officials said.

The SUNY Albany chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group collected several bags of litter and bottles during cleanup efforts Saturday throughout the Pine Hills neighborhood near the St. Rose College campus.

"We chose this area because this is where the students live," said Miquel Mowbray, a spokesperson for the university chapter. "I walk out of my door and I see garbage - it's ridiculous. We figured this would be the perfect place to do a cleanup since it will directly affect our fellow students."

While about 25 students volunteered with the cleanup Saturday, there are about 60 members total in the SUNY Albany NYPIRG chapter, officials said.

Along with helping to make the neighborhood look better, the event was also conducted to see if people tend to throw away more non-carbonated drink bottles than recyclable bottles.

The results of the bottle survey were not immediately available, but Mowbray speculated that it seemed less recyclable bottles were being discarded since they have a 5-cent refundable deposit.

When the results from the data survey are announced, they will likely be used to show that bottle litter will reduce if more bottles have these deposits, officials said.

A similar litter survey was conducted by the Rensselaer County residents for a bigger better bottle bill along the roads near the Tamarac Plaza in June of this year.

The purpose of the pre-summer survey was also to see if residents threw away more non-depositable bottles than ones that could be deposited for a nickel, said Steve Breyman, an organizer of the event which included over a dozen locals collecting litter from the Brunswick byways.

"I was a little nervous going into this because we really weren't sure what the results would be - this was like a public experiment with the possibility of falling flat on our faces," he said about the June 2 event. "We wanted to prove with this survey that people were more inclined to throw away bottles without deposits because there was less incentive to recycle them."

The group collected more than 650 bottles for carbonated and non-carbonated beverages. Of these, 61percent of the littered bottles did not have deposits.

Along with soda and beer bottles, the bigger better bottle bill that the local group is proposing would expand the bill to include juice bottles, water containers, sports drinks, and iced tea bottles.

Officials expect this change would turn over an estimated $180 million annually in unclaimed deposits to the state to fund environmental programs.

The current state bill -dubbed the bottle bill - was passed in 1982 and allows people to return soda and beer bottles for a nickel deposit. Since other bottled drinks were not widely available when the bill was originally passed, they were not included in the bottle bill.

The bigger better bottle bill was included in Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposed state budget but was rejected by the Senate. Political leaders said they would review the bill again after the budget was passed, but action has yet to be taken.

Bills have been introduced in both the Assembly and the Senate, officials said.


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