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April 15, 2008

The Daily Orange

Sen. Bruno botched N.Y.'s Bottle Bill
By: Kevin Eggleston

Plastic, plastic everywhere, those bottles never shrink; plastic, plastic, everywhere, the remnants of your sports drink.

Were Samuel Taylor Coleridge to write his masterpiece today, his Arctic-stranded crew in the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" would not be salivating over a salt-water ocean. Instead, it'd simply head below deck and drink its fill of Gatorade and Poland Spring.

"But what to do with the bottles?" the crew might wonder. It'd check the label for a deposit, and finding none, toss them into the sea.

Sound familiar? Replace sailors with students and the deep blue sea with a dirty green dumpster, and there's no doubt it happens countless times every day here at Syracuse University. Across New York State, the situation is even worse.

The reason that cola cans, beer bottles and other carbonated beverages can be returned for a deposit in New York - and newfangled items like water bottles and sports drinks cannot - has mostly to do with timing.

New York's current bottle bill is ancient. Passed in 1982, it failed to predict and address the recent phenomenon of our bottled-water obsessed culture.

These days, without a legislated deposit on non-carbonated beverages, only 10 percent of water bottles are recycled, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. That means more than 90 percent of the 2.5 billion bottles of water sold in New York State every year end up as unnecessary trash - and as any highway driver knows, not all of it ends up in a landfill.

To address this problem, the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) has been pulling out all the stops to get a Bigger Better Bottle Bill passed in the New York State legislature. The bill would not only expand the bottle deposit to include non-carbonated beverages like juice and water bottles, but also force bottle distributers to turn over millions in unclaimed deposits to the State Environmental Protection Fund.

As NYPIRG's bottle bill advocate Chad Brooker said, the group has been holding almost daily meetings with assembly members and state senators in order to finally get the bill included in the 2008 state budget.

Despite the fact that the movement for the bottle bill has generated massive grassroots support, NYPIRG has been disappointed during recent and past budget deliberation processes as the Republican Majority Leader, Sen. Joseph Bruno, worked to successfully prevent the passage of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill.

"While NYPIRG is a nonpartisan group, it sticks true to this in everything we do, it can accurately be said that it is the Republicans in the Senate, under the strong guidance of Bruno, who are blocking this measure," said SU sophomore Chad Brookeand.

Republicans in the state Senate have opposed the Bigger Better Bottle Bill since it was proposed in 2002. The Albany Times Union quoted Bruno in an article published April 2 saying the bill is "prohibitive to consumers."

Perhaps Bruno failed to understand that when it comes to excessive water bottle consumption, consumer prohibition may be part of the point. More likely, however, he realized passing the bill would be prohibitive to Republican fundraising. State Senate Republicans received $300,000 in donations from the bill's opponents in 2007, according to the Albany Times Union.

Brooker looked at these campaign contributions and observed, "This money will surely come in handy for reelection campaigns, but at a cost: the degradation of New York's landscape, habitats and environments."

If Bruno and Senate Republicans shoot down the bill again, they will have a plastic albatross around their neck. With the number of plastic bottles thrown away in New York state alone, their burden is a heavy one. It's time for Captain Bruno and his crew of Senate Republicans to realize their folly before it is too late.

As for everyone else, before there really is plastic, plastic everywhere, think about trying that classic source of water: the sink.


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