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March 17, 2008


Bottle politics

In waning days before the April 1 state budget deadline, almost any reasonable revenue-raising proposal can catch the eyes of legislators desperately seeking cash. So we'll try this one for the fourth time, the ever-reasonable, money-making, environmentally friendly "better bottle bill.

Proponents - among them some of the state's leading environmentalists and good government advocates, as well as the state Conference of Mayors, and the state Association of Counties - are asking the Legislature to include ever-expanding, non-carbonated beverages to the bottle law already on the books.

Advocates estimate 3 billion containers of non-carbonated beverages are sold in New York every year, and that only about 20 percent are recycled.

Adopted on Earth Day in 1982, language in the first bottle bill didn't anticipate the deluge of non-carbonated containers that would come to litter the landscape a generation later.

Five years ago, the state Division of Budget estimated a five-cent deposit on those containers could generate at least $100 million in new revenue. With the state facing billions in deficits over the near-term, claiming these deposits would be a valuable resource for environmental protection.

Expansion of the bottle bill law has been regularly adopted in the Assembly and included in the governor's program bills, but consistently buried by the Senate.

New Gov. David Paterson, like his predecessors, is a supporter.

Efforts to assuage bottle lobbyists by increasing the handling fee by 75 percent failed to move senators last year.

Indeed, a wrong-headed desperation has settled upon the land in certain quarters as years go by and non-refundable bottles pile up in local landfills.

The Suffolk County Legislature, for instance, reportedly is considering legislation which would bar water bottles in government offices as a way to curb the rising tide of plastic containers, and thus conserve oil.

Suffolk lawmakers might pursue a more practical approach: lobby their Republican senators to adopt the better bottle bill.


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