November 7, 2009
Water bottles carry 5-cent deposit beginning Sunday
By Rick Miller
Starting Sunday, New Yorkers will pay a 5-cent deposit on water bottles in addition to soda- and beer-container deposits that have been in effect for 25 years.
The “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill” was to have taken effect Nov. 1, but state retail associations asked for the one-week delay in order to be able to reprogram cash registers.
It is designed to reduce litter and cut down on the thousands of tons of plastic from bottles that end up in state landfills each year.
David Ried, president of Ried’s Food Barn at East Green and South Union streets, said his store is ready to accept properly labeled water products, but there may be a temporary shortage of properly labeled product to sell.
“We can’t sell it if it’s not properly labeled,” Mr. Ried said Friday. He expects the newly labeled water products to be available very soon, however.
He agreed to the “Bigger” part of the slogan “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,” but isn’t sure that it is “better.”
Will the new deposit add to the cost of bottled water?
“Competition will determine the price,” Mr. Ried said, adding he didn’t think it would be unreasonable to see distributors pass along some of the added costs.
“We’ll have to be careful too,” he explained.
During the transition to deposit water bottles, some non-deposit containers may be inadvertently presented for redemption. Retailers will get 3.5 cents back from the distributor for handling each bottle, up from 2 cents. It remains to be seen whether distributors will pass those costs along to consumers.
Mr. Ried said, “We’ve never thought that the Bottle Bill was the most efficient way to recycle. Adding water doesn’t help that situation in our opinion.”
The recycling should be done at the curbside, not by bringing dirty containers inside a supermarket where food is sold and some products made.
It will certainly add to the number of containers Ried’s and other retailers will be handling in the redemption line soon.
Excluded from the 5-cent-per-container deposit are sugar-water drinks like Gatorade or Vitamin Water.
The International Bottled Water Association doesn’t think the added deposit ($1.20 for a case of 24 water bottles) will have any long-term impact on the sales of bottled water.
Ten other states already require a deposit on bottled water, and more states are considering it, not only to keep the bottles out of landfills and to reduce litter, but as another revenue source in lean economic times.
New York will take 80 percent of unclaimed deposits from bottling companies, which with the addition of water bottles beginning Sunday, is expected to amount to about $87 million in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2010.
New York has received an estimated $2 billion in unclaimed deposits since the Bottle Bill first started 25 years ago.
The added revenues from unclaimed water bottle deposits will go to the state’s general fund instead of the state’s environmental fund.