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May 25, 2007

Niagara Gazette

EDITORIAL: Bottle return law should change

State legislators need to rethink their policy on nickels.

State Senate Republicans this week attended a swank Manhattan political fundraiser thrown by the beverage industry to help prevent the caucus from approving a no-brainer change in the state’s bottle return policy that would be a step forward for the environment.

A trip into any gas station or convenience store yields the proof that popular beverage tastes have largely shifted from traditional carbonated beverages like pop and beer to more health-conscious flavored waters, iced teas and energy drinks. Those containers don’t carry the five-cent deposit that motivates consumers to return them to the store for recycling.

The state’s law on bottle deposits is completely outdated when you consider the fact that non-carbonated drinks have garnered a huge share of the industry’s total sales, with industry estimates putting the total non-carbonated sales at nearly 20 percent of total market share. Of those sales, according to a 2007 study by the Container Recycling Institute, just one in five non-carbonated bottles are recycled in states where no deposit is required.

Of course the beverage industry doesn’t want to go through the hassle of a bottle return policy for more of what they sell. They’d much prefer to keep the status quo and shove the cost off on municipalities who pay to clean up the mess, both in anti-litter programs and larger-than-necessary garbage collection fees.

The measure, backed by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, deserves to become law. The only reason is hasn’t is because in Albany, campaign donations from special interest groups speak louder than common sense.

When you think about it, how many other initiatives are out there that help save the environment without costing taxpayers a nickel?


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