February 21, 2008
Students Urge Lawmakers to Expand Bottle Bill
By Juliet Werner
Students from the New York Public Interest Research Group chapters at Queens College and Queensborough Community College are urging lawmakers to update New York’s Bottle Bill.
The current Bottle Bill, which passed in 1982, requires a 5-cent refundable deposit on carbonated beverage containers for beer and soda, but excludes non-carbonated beverage containers.
A statewide litter survey, conducted last fall at 20 sites across the state, revealed although non-carbonated beverages make up less than 30 percent of the U.S. beverage market they accounted for 61 percent of the beverage container litter and 21 percent of the total litter collected.
The cleanups took place at beaches, college campuses, urban neighborhoods, parks, riverfronts, and at Queens’ Kissena Park and Dubos Point in Far Rockaway.
“Participating in a local cleanup was a terrific experience,” QC student Ariana Miranda said. “But it broke our hearts to see how much of the litter we picked up could have been prevented in the first place if the politicians in Albany updated the Bottle Bill.”
Students, community members, public officials, businesses and organizations believe Albany has an obligation to expand the bill in order to address changing consumer trends. According to DEC, nearly 2.5 billion bottles of water are sold in New York every year and bottled water is the fastest growing beverage market nationwide.
The Bigger Better Bottle Bill would improve recycling methods and require beverage companies to transfer unclaimed consumer deposits to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. Maine, Hawaii, California and Oregon have already passed deposit laws that include bottled water.
On Valentine’s Day, Queens students presented Senator Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) with a Valentine and called on him to pass the bill in the 2008-2009 state budget.
“We’re calling on Senator Padavan, Senator Bruno and the rest of the State Senate to have a heart for New York’s environment,” NYPIRG Project Coordinator Anne Chesky said.
According the NYPIRG, Governor Eliot Spitzer backs the Bigger Better Bottle Bill. The State Assembly supports it as well, but it has been blocked in the State Senate for the past three years.
Padavan, who sponsored the 1982 bill and has co-sponsored the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, said the main opposition is coming from corporations and manufactures.
“They’re using the same reasons that tried to use with the original bottle bill,” Padavan said. “That it would cost money for them to deal with this, it would cost jobs and that it would be a burden not only for the retailers but the consumers. Those were the reasons they used and it’s illogical.”
In the years since the original bill passed, 90.6 billion beverage containers have been recycled and roadside container litter has decreased by more than 70 percent.
“It turned out you were wrong – it did work,” Padavan said. “And it’s saved government billions of dollars in what wound up in sanitary landfills and littering the community.”
On Feb. 26, approximately one month before the deadline for adopting the state budget, three hundred New York college students will travel to Albany to make their case before the Senate.