March 23, 2007
Another voice / Bottle deposits
Expanded recycling doesn’t require a new beverage tax
By Peter Vukelic
Try-It Distributing Co. is a thirdgeneration family-owned business headquartered in Western New York. Our business believes in recycling, and that the present system of recycling has worked well.
We agree with Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer that it can be made to work even better. We just don’t agree that making it work better requires a major increase in costs to businesses and imposing a new beverage tax on consumers.
Our goal is to see recycling rates increased without the additional costs to business and another consumer tax. Unfortunately, the proposed Bigger, Better Bottle Bill, known as B-4, does not meet these goals.
There are a number of problems with the governor’s proposal. Expanding the bottle bill to include noncarbonated drinks, juices and water while exempting wine, liquor and dairy containers seems to contradict the claim that increased recycling is the true goal of B-4.
Increasing the handling fees for retailers from 2 cents per container to 3.5 cents will increase the cost of a case of beer for consumers by $1.40 and $3.60 for noncarbonated drinks and juices. These cost increases will hurt consumers, hitting the poor especially hard.
Yet despite these changes in cost and scope, B-4 produces surprisingly little impact on recycling rates. After adding more than $300 million in cost to businesses and consumers, it is estimated that recycling rates will increase by only a mere two-tenths of 1 percent. That’s simply not good public policy.
And remember, there is an inverse relationship between costs and sales. The more these beverages cost, the fewer will be sold. Fewer sales translate to fewer jobs and less money flowing into state coffers from sales tax revenue. That’s a formula that has worked against New York State for generations and needs to be reversed if we are going to start creating jobs and wealth again.
Redirecting unclaimed bottle deposits away from the private sector, which has used the money to fund a very effective recycling program, and into the state government’s Environmental Protection Fund for unspecified programs ignores the success of the current Western New York B.I.C.S. program. In a recent editorial on this issue, The Buffalo News recognized that B-4 must not be allowed to become another “unfunded mandate” on New York business and that a “balanced approach” was needed.
We couldn’t agree more. If the real goal is to increase recycling, then New York should expand municipal curbside recycling to include all containers, no exceptions. This simple change would do all of the good of B-4 without the negative financial impacts.
Expanded recycling does not grow the size of state government, avoids the beverage tax and spares businesses from assuming additional costs of handling extra containers. The last thing our state needs is a new tax cloaked in the name of the environment.
Peter Vukelic is vice president of governmentaffairs for Try-It Distributing Co. inLancaster.