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February 10, 2009

The Record

Deposits on non-redeemables pushed

ALBANY — Each second in New York state, 148 bottles and cans of non-carbonated and non-redeemable beverages are consumed and about 16 percent of them are recycled in comparison to the approximate 78 percent of redeemable beer, soda and wine cooler drinks which are recycled, officials said at a news conference Monday in support of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill currently before the state Senate and Assembly.

The nickel deposit on most carbonated drinks is a main reason for this recycling ratio, said Laura Haight, a main advocate of the proposed bill that would expand the original 1982 bottle bill by including non-carbonated beverages and giving the state power to collect unclaimed deposits which could amount to $218 million in new annual revenue. The state’s Division of the Budget estimated that unclaimed deposits could generate $118 million annually.

“With New York facing devastating budget shortfalls, it would be indefensible for state lawmakers to cut funding for core needs, including health care and environmental protection, while letting beverage companies continue to pocket the public’s abandoned nickels,” she said.

In 2006, beverage companies retained about $144 million in unclaimed deposits, according to the Washington, DC-based Container Recycling Institute citing market figures which show nearly 9 million redeemable containers were sold that year in the state. This number is about 50 percent larger than the figure reported to the state by the beverage industry.

The new bottle bill has come before state representatives each session since at least 2002.

In previous years, former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, blocked the bill from passing, said Mark Dunlea, another proponent of the bill.

“I am optimistic this year that it could pass with the state’s fiscal problems and the need for more revenue,” he added, saying Gov. David Paterson and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver were both in favor of the bill.

Austin Shafran, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Malcolm A. Smith, said, “Addressing the budget deficit for the coming fiscal year remains our conference’s top priority. The bottle bill, as a means of revenue generation, is among the many alternatives that are being discussed with the conference.”

The BBBB bill would include water and juice drink containers with the current nickel deposit beverages.

At the meeting Monday, officials said that 4.6 million non-carbonated, non-redeemable drink containers were sold in 2006 which, if stacked end-to-end, could build a structure to the moon and back, said Haight adding that non-carbonated drink sales have continued to rise since at least 2005.

A similar litter survey was conducted by the Rensselaer County Residents for a Bigger Better Bottle Bill along the roads near the Tamarac Plaza in June 2007. The group collected over 650 bottles for carbonated and non-carbonated beverages. Of these, 61 percent of the littered bottles did not have deposits, officials said.

Officials said the bill could improve recycling rates and create new jobs at new recycling facilities and other businesses. The BBBB is in the 2009-2010 proposed state budget.


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