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January 3, 2009

The Buffalo News

Updating ‘Bottle Bill’ is a no-brainer for Albany

As Gov. David A. Paterson has made clear, New York is facing a staggering budget deficit — by far the largest in state history. And many hard budget choices must be made. But updating New York’s 25- year-old bottle deposit law isn’t one of them: Expanding the law to cover noncarbonated beverage containers, including water, fruit juice and sports drinks, is long overdue.

Enacting what’s come to be known as the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is a common- sense move that will reduce litter, boost recycling and keep millions of additional containers out of landfills. And if that isn’t enough reason, adding new containers to the list will generate badly needed revenue for the state to maintain vital programs funded through the state Environmental Protection Fund, such as farmland protection, Great Lakes and park stewardship and urban forestry.

The environmental and economic benefits of the bottle-deposit law are clear. Since the original Bottle Bill was passed in 1982, roadside litter has been reduced by 70 percent. More than 90 billion containers and 6 million tons of glass, aluminum and plastic have been recycled, resulting in saving more than 50 million barrels of oil and eliminating 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases — a sum equal to getting 600,000 cars off the road for one year.

The one flaw in the current law is that it applies only to beer and carbonated beverages. It makes no sense to continue to differentiate these containers based on their contents — especially with non-carbonated drinks now making up more than one-quarter of the beverage market.

But more than just the benefits of recycling, enactment of the expanded Bottle Bill in 2009 is needed to supplement funding for the Environmental Protection Fund, which supplies money for more than 30 important programs. Besides those previously mentioned, others include municipal recycling, the state pesticides database, soil and water conservation districts and agricultural waste management programs.

In order to deal with the state’s looming deficit, the governor’s proposed budget for the 2009-10 fiscal year has shielded virtually no area of state spending from reductions, including the Environmental Protection Fund. An expanded Bottle Bill can help the programs funded through the fund.

Now it is time for the Legislature to do its part by supporting this initiative, which would not only help protect our environment by reducing litter, but also help fund statewide programs that protect our environment.

There are many hard choices to make in relation to our state budget; this is not one of them. Tell your legislator: Pass the Bigger Better Bottle Bill.

Pete Grannis is New York State environmental conservation commissioner. Patrick Hooker is New York State agriculture commissioner. Carol Ash is commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.


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