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June 8, 2008

The Press & Sun-Bulletin

City council backs expanded bottle deposits

City Council has unanimously passed a resolution urging the state Legislature to update New York's Bottle Bill.

But local politicians, grocers and environmentalists are butting heads on whether to support it.

The "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," which was passed by the Assembly in 2005 and 2006, but has yet to come to a vote in the Senate, would expand the 5-cent deposit to include almost all containers. Milk and dairy products, infant formula, wine and liquor would be exempt.

The original Bottle Bill in 1982 didn't include bottled water, iced teas, sports drinks and other non-carbonated beverages because they weren't popular at the time.

"It's a very important measure that would help our state improve its recycling, reduce its waste and reduce its consumption of natural resources," said Amelia LoDolce,the city's sustainable development planner.

Nearly two-thirds of the bottles and cans polluting New York's rivers and beaches are non-carbonated beverages, according to recent surveys conducted by coastal cleanup volunteers.

"I'm certainly in support of the idea of expanding the bottle bill," said Assemblywoman Donna A. Lupardo, D-Endwell. "But I have some reservations."

Among her concerns are large retailers who sell a volume of containers but don't accept them for refunds. She's also worried about over-redemption resulting from people who return containers from areas that don't have bottle bills, like Pennsylvania.

Sen. Thomas W. Libous, R-Binghamton opposes the bill. "I fully support working for a cleaner environment for our future," Libous said in a statement. "But expanding the bottle bill to include hundreds of more items would be a tough burden on hardworking taxpayers everywhere. They'd have to lug hundreds of dirty bottles to the grocery stores or redemption centers instead of simply putting them out on the curb like we do now."

According to John Gage, owner of Conklin Reliable Market, the proposed bottle bill expansion would also inconvenience grocers. "I hope they wouldn't put the burden on retailers with the collection of these," Gage said. "It's labor-intensive even if you have machines involved. And even if you do have machines, there's still a mess involved."

Still, grocers who accept deposit containers and sell them to recyclers, could "see a bump in our returns," said Robert Cavanaugh II, manager of Cavanaugh's Grocery in Binghamton.

Since more people are drinking non-carbonated beverages these days, Cavanaugh said he's seeing fewer customers return containers for carbonated beverages.

Binghamton University environmental studies professor Richard Andrus said the bill could result in harm to the environment because companies would be encouraged to produce plastic, which is difficult to decompose into reusable materials.


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