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February 20, 2007

The Saratogian

Spitzer hopes someone gets his message on the bottle

Eddy's Beverage Center employee Sean Kowell discusses some of the pros and cons of the proposed updates in the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill" on Tuesday. RICK GARGIULO/The Saratogian

Only 20 percent of containers without a 5-cent deposit get recycled. But residents who need an incentive to recycle their empty bottles might get one if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill passes.

It's been 25 years since the New York bottle bill that placed a 5-cent deposit rebate on beer and soda containers in an effort to reduce litter and encourage recycling. With so many other types of beverage containers not included in that bill, Gov. Spitzer is pledging to expand the 5-cent bottle refund to include bottled water, sports drinks, juice and other non-carbonated beverages.

"Eighty percent of containers with deposits get returned, while only about 20 percent of containers without deposits get properly recycled. The difference between not having a deposit and having one is night and day," said William Janeway of the Friends of New York's Environment.

Spitzer's Bigger Better Bottle Bill also would require beverage companies to transfer all unclaimed deposits to the state Environmental Protection Fund, increasing the fund from $225 million to $325 million.

Currently, beverage distribution centers keep unclaimed deposits. If passed, the bill would ensure unclaimed deposits - an estimated $100 million per year - will be transferred to the EPF for environmental projects such as water and land cleanup and clean air projects, Janeway said.

"With this bill, the benefits are twofold. We'll get a cleaner community with less litter, and it will help environmental projects with more funding," he added.

In the past two years, the State Assembly passed the bill, but it died in the Senate. Sen. Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, voted against the bill.

"This bill would place an undue tax burden on consumers and business owners alike. According to reports, the price of bottled beverages could increase by 15 cents," Sen. Bruno's spokesman Kris Thompson said. "The real answer is to improve curbside recycling programs."

For beverage distribution centers, this bill would mean more work for employees and less room for storage.

"It has its ups and downs," said Sean Kowell, an employee at Eddy's Beverage Center in Saratoga Springs. "We'll have to do a lot more sorting of bottles and vendors will have to make more room for the returns, but it'll get more people to recycle," he added.

Kowell also said he feels that the environment would be much cleaner with this new bill.

"People would pick bottles up off the street if they knew they could get money back. It'll save space in landfills also," Kowell said. "If they don't get money for it, Americans won't be motivated to recycle."

When the original bottle bill was adopted in 1982, bottled water and sports drinks weren't popular, so only carbonated beverages were given a deposit. Today, it makes no sense that containers of carbonated water receive a deposit, but plain water in the same container doesn't, Janeway said.


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