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October 28, 2009

Albany Times-Union

New deposit bottles arrive at stores
Nickel charge on water starts Saturday; grace period until Nov. 8

At the Schenectady Recycling and Redemption Center in Scotia, owner Bob Gibson already sees nickel deposit labels on bottled water for Nestles and Saratoga Springs Water. Now, he's buying a few more containers to handle the new bottles, but isn't sure whether he will be taking on more workers.

"I'm not sure how much more business to expect, but our bottom line will be a little bit better," he said. "We've been getting a lot of inquiries. And we've already had a couple of Boy Scout troops and a church group bringing in water bottles, even without the deposit."

Nickels will start changing hands after midnight Saturday, in the wake a federal judge's ruling last week that blocked an industry challenge to bar the new law, which adds deposits to bottled water like that in place since 1982 on carbonated beverages beer and soda.

There are no further plans to pursue the lawsuit, said Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, which filed the measure. "Most of our members will be ready. It is in everyone's interest now to get the (deposit) mark and go," he said.

The state won't actually start enforcing the deposit law until Nov. 8, so stores have a bit more time to sell out their non-deposit stock, making it less likely that bottlers will be deluged with returns, Lauria said.

Environmental groups welcomed the start of the new law, which is expected to improve recycling rates while also generating up to $100 million a year in new revenue to the financially ailing state.

"This is a sweet treat for the environment on Halloween," said Joe Stelling, environmental campaign organizer for the New York Public Interest Research Group, which had lobbied for the law. "This will include about 3.2 billion water bottles sold in the state each year. With the new law, we are now covering about 90 percent of total beverage market,"

About 80 percent of deposit bottles are recycled, compared to 20 percent of non-deposit bottles.

At the locally-owned Saratoga Springs Water bottling company, labels are already on the distinctive blue bottles, said company spokesman Howard Schaeffer. "The company recognizes the impact of the law and intends to fully comply," he said.

At the Pepsi Bottling Group in Latham, "We plan to be in compliance with the new law by the end of this month," said Pepsi spokesman Jeff Dahncke. Officials at Adirondack Beverage in Soctia declined comment.

The expanded bottle law was passed by the Legislature in April as part of the 2009-10 state budget. Because it is keeping 80 percent of the revenue from unreturned deposits and raising fees on bottlers, money that used to be kept totally by the bottlers, the state expects to bring in about $100 million a year in new revenue.

Under the expanded bottle law, nickel deposits will be added to any glass, metal or plastic container holding less than one gallon or 3.78 liters of water, flavored water or nutritionally enhanced water that contains zero grams of sugar on its nutritional label.


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