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March 5, 2007

Environmentalists showing support for new bottle bill

Environmental advocates and good government groups from across New York and the Northeast converged on Albany to show unified support for Gov. Eliot Spitzer's proposed expanded bottle bill at a press conference last Tuesday.

Under the expanded bottle bill, carbonated drinks would not be the only beverages with a required nickel deposit. The new bill would include noncarbonated bottled drinks such as iced tea, water, sports drinks and juice among others. The new bill would also mandate that money from unclaimed deposits go into the state Environmental Protection Fund; something grocers, convenience store operators and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, R,C,I- Brunswick, have voiced their opposition to.

Some of the groups present at the press conference were: Environmental Defense, League of Women Voters, Audubon, New York Conference of Mayors, American Littoral Society, the Container Recycling Institute and the Friends of the Hudson River Park. Part of the purpose of the press conference was to show opponents and supporters of the bill the unanimity of advocacy groups in support of the bill.

Bill Cooke, government liaison director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, was present and said, "We're talking about millions of dollars of abandoned property … the Senate majority leader, Joe Bruno, the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, can work with Governor Spitzer to fix the bottle bill."

Cooke explained his view on the situation at the press conference: "It is public need or corporate greed. We stand here today to tell you, it should be public need."

Bruno spokesman Mark Hansen said the majority leader has said he does not support the new bottle bill. "Bruno has said in the past he considers the new bottle bill to be a tax on New Yorkers," said Hansen.

Bruno, said Hansen, has pointed out "a lot of these containers are already being recycled using curbside containers."

Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette said he does not foresee any problems due to Bruno's opposition. "The governor has demonstrated that by working in good faith with both houses they can achieve tremendous successes. We believe there is room for productive discussion with both houses on the bottle bill," Violette said.

In its annual report, the Container Recycling Institute estimates overall recycling of beverage containers in the United State is just 33 percent. About 27 percent of the market share of the drink industry belonging to noncarbonated drinks that in 47 states are nonrefundable. That 27 percent, according to the report, will grow to the point where, by 2010, sales of noncarbonated drinks will "likely surpass" soda sales. There are 11 states though that have updated bottle bills and, according to the report, enjoy recycling rates of 65 percent to 95 percent of all beverage containers.

Violette said that the new bottle bill "modernizes a 25-year-old bill. The governor is trying to make an effort to modernize the bottle bill for the modern economy."

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