June 19, 2008
New Bottle Bill Expands Recycling Program
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Robert Sweeney announced June 11 that the Assembly had passed a “bigger, better bottle bill” to alter the way the bottle deposit recycling system will function in New York State.
The bill, which was first initiated by students from Queens College a month ago, passed in the Assembly 98 to 40 after nearly two hours of floor debate.
The new program expands the current five-cent deposit system to include non-carbonated beverages like bottled water, iced tea, sports drinks and juices. It also requires unclaimed deposits to be turned over from distributors and bottlers to the state. The revenue will be used to fund and support environmental programs.
Proponents of the measure hail the policy as an affirmation of the Assembly’s commitment to protecting the environment through the implementation of new measures to expand recycling programs. As Assemblyman Robert Sweeney (D-Suffolk) said in a statement released by the Assembly, “The current bottle deposit law has been New York’s most important and successful litter prevention and recycling program … This legislation simply updates the law to include these non-carbonated beverage containers, expanding a proven incentive to help remove them from our waste stream, roadways and communities.”
Data provided by the Container Recycling Institute estimates that revenues from unredeemed five-cent deposits returned to the state could total $195 million. Under the bill’s provisions, the revenue will be invested into programs that support state parks, better recycling initiatives, improved water quality standards and increased pollution prevention.
While Silver and Sweeney praise the program, critics contend that the bill may have a negative impact on businesses and consumers. One of the most vocal groups to oppose the bill has been New Yorkers for Real Recycling Reform, a self-described “coalition of grocers, businesses and labor groups who have come together to oppose the outdated, costly, inconvenient and ineffective expanded bottle law proposal.”
Speaking for the group, President and CEO of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State James Rogers said in a statement, “New Yorkers are hurting in these difficult economic times and this proposal will make things more difficult for them. This scheme is just about raising money, not improving the environment.”