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October 30, 2009

Water World

Water Bottle Deposits Set to Start Saturday

Oct. 30--PLATTSBURGH -- Bottled-water containers will come with a 5-cent deposit starting Saturday.

The Returnable Container Act expanded New York's bottle bill to include water bottles under a gallon in size as part of the 2009-10 state budget. The change was expected to bring about $115 million to the state.

Opponents obtained an injunction that prevented its implementation, but parts of that were lifted in August.

The water bottles were again included in the law after a court decision reached on Oct. 23.

The New York Public Interest Research Group was one of the advocates for the law.

It cites Container Recycling Institute statistics that more than 3.2 billion water bottles are sold in New York each year, with fewer than 20 percent recycled.

The institute estimates that could increase to more than 70 percent recycled when deposits are charged.

New York is the sixth state to include water in its deposit laws.

The state's bottle law still doesn't apply to iced tea, sports drinks, juice, sugared water, milk, wine or liquor.

Valley Vending Vice President Doug Lyons said he is in favor of recycling and sees the expansion to water bottles as a good incentive to do so.

However, the Plattsburgh businessman said, the increase is untimely, given the current economy. It is a bad time to add costs to products in New York, he said, and many people still don't realize the change is coming.

With the new law, the handling fee that distributors pay to redemption centers was increased from 2 cents to 3.5 cents.

Lyons said Valley Vending and other small businesses are already facing rising costs from bottlers. He fears they will use the increase as an excuse to raise their prices even more.

When those increases come, Valley Vending and others will eventually have to raise their prices, Leons said.

"This is an increase we pass along to our customers that we have no control over. It's not just us lining our pockets."

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says the measure will help address the rapid growth of bottled-water sales.

When the original bottle bill was passed in 1982, bottled water was a miniscule part of the beverage market. That has increased to more than 23 percent, according to the DEC Web site.

The state will not take enforcement action against dealers who are in the process of complying during a grace period that ends Nov. 8. It does expect dealers to begin charging deposits on properly labeled bottles after they have reprogrammed their computers.

The law allows 80 percent of unclaimed deposits to go to New York state. Previously, that money went to the distributors who initiated the deposits.

A provision of the new law that would have required a UPC code on each bottle remains blocked. That was intended to prevent out-of-state bottles from being redeemed in automatic redemption machines.


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