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April 30, 2008

The Daily Freeman

Bigger, better bottle bill battles bullies

EARTH DAY is long gone, but we can continue to celebrate the conservation of the planet by wasting energy watching television shows about the wasting of energy.

It's a New York tradition, just like discussing, passing and killing the bottle bill.

AHH! IT'S REFRESHING. And it works like this: State politicians get together in Albany to drink non-carbonated bottled beverages, considering ways to tax them.

A bill is passed. After a carbonated toast which happens in an "hour" deemed "happy," every single legislator takes credit for the bill, faxing the good environmental news to every newspaper in the state, and killing many trees in the process. Then all the newspapers print the news, thereby killing even more trees. Environmental groups get mental about the killing of the trees, faxing news releases about the wasteful practice of excessive faxing.

Then the state Senate decides that it is unfair to tax bottles, mainly because they were not invited to happy hour. All the state senators, known as Joe Bruno, reasoned it is unjust to punish the companies that have managed to dupe you into buying bottled municipal water from Latham.

SO THE bill is killed. And the state's forests and beaches get filled with much of the 3 billion colorful plastic and glass bottles that New Yorkers buy every year.

But don't be alarmed. Many of the plastic bottles are burned in landfills, contributing to the toasty warming of the planet. And the plastic bottles are made out of oil, and -- as you know -- a gallon of oil is cheaper than a glass bottle of S. Pellegrino water.

Advocates for the new bottle bill estimate that 80 percent of the 3 billion bottles used every year are not recycled. According to journalistic math, that figure comes to about four or five bottles, which has to be the reason why the bill hasn't passed in years.



The real reason is that journalists are poor at math and that poor bottle companies will suffer from this poorly crafted bill.

For instance, a bottle of Bling H2O, also known as water from Tennessee, can cost a reasonable $90. Why? Because the company uses "a nine step purification process including ozone, ultraviolet and micro-filtration ensuring gold-medal taste and quality" and also ensuring blatant nonsense and consumer stupidity.

The end result is an amazingly colorless, odorless and tasteless substance that already was colorless, odorless and tasteless to begin with, just like the humor in this column.

As you can see, this company cannot afford a five-cent tax.

So we're still bottled up with the old bottle bill, which only covers carbonated drinks. But non-carbonated beverage hater and New York Gov. David Paterson has vowed that he would make a goal of passing the new measure.

THE PRESSURE to pass the bill has come from evil groups that are trying to help "the environment," which is just a theory, like gravity.

THE recently updated Web site for the New York Public Interest Research Group reminds us that 2007 marks the 25th anniversary of the original bottle bill. Let's not forget that fact when that year rolls around.

NYPIRG's site links to a Surfrider Foundation video that asks, "Have you ever wondered why a bottle of Coke is worth a nickel deposit but a bottle of water is worth nothing?"

Well, no. And have you ever wondered why it costs almost a dime to make a nickel?

Alas, such a penny-pinching question is as irrelevant as the fact that a penny costs two pennies to make. But now that we're talking money, know that five years ago, a bunch of crazy tree-huggers known as the state Division of Budget estimated a nickle deposit on non-carbonated bottles would generate at least $100 million.

So obviously, the solution is as clear as a $90 bottle of Bling H20. We need to stop drinking water.

Ivan Lajara is Life Editor of the Freeman. He can be reached by calling (845) 331-5000, ext. 502 and by e-mail at ilajara@freemanonline.com. A companion blog to this column can be found at dailyfreeman.blogspot.com


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