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December 15, 2007

Poughkeepsie Journal

State needs deal on bottle bills

The bottle law is arguably the most successful recycling program in New York's history. Since its inception about 25 years ago, five million tons of material, including 90 billion bottles, have been recycled. Even with this enormous achievement, the law has started to show signs of age and should be updated.

The law requires a 5-cent deposit on each bottle of soda and beer sold in New York state. When the bottle is brought to a recycling center, the deposit is refunded. When the bottle law was created, there was not nearly the diversity of beverages that are available now. As a result, bottled water, energy drinks, iced teas and bottled coffee drinks are not covered by the law. These containers pollute the Hudson and clog landfills, and there's absolutely no reason for this.

Expanding the bottle law would support the recycling of an enormous quantity of waste. The state also has an opportunity to improve how it handles unclaimed deposits. Now, all that money goes to the beverage industry to defray the costs of recycling centers. Many states get that money and can use it to boost their other environmental programs.

This year, Gov. Eliot Spitzer pushed for such expansion in the law but was willing to compromise in some ways. Retailers and redemption centers actually would have received an increase in handling fees - from 2 cents to 3.5 cents a bottle - to help defray the costs of running recycling programs. Unclaimed nickel deposits would have gone to the state's dedicated Environmental Protection Fund, used for worthwhile endeavors such as farmland preservation.

The state Assembly has backed similar ideas for years. The state Senate has not. State Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Nassau County, has sponsored legislation that at least would expand the recycling program without redistributing the nickels. State lawmakers must continue to work on this legislation and strike a deal.

A "Bigger Better Bottle Bill" could mean billions more of cans and bottles end in recycling bins each year. The issue has been ignored long enough.


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