February 19, 2009
Expanded N.Y. bottle bill urged
The state's top environmental official on Wednesday touted the benefits of an expanded bottle bill law, maintaining that the bill would free landfills of tons of non-returnable bottles and generate millions in revenue for the state.
Gov. David Paterson is pushing a so-called "Bigger Better Bottle Bill" that would add plastic water bottles and other non-returnable containers to the list of those requiring a 5-cent deposit. At a news conference at the Rochester Institute of Technology Wednesday, Department of Environmental Conservation Chairman Pete Grannis maintained that the bill is more of an improvement on the original 1982 bottle bill than a major revamping of the law.
"Even a great law ... needs a tune-up," Grannis said.
When the original bottle bill went into effect, non-carbonated beverages made up a small percentage of those sold in containers, Grannis noted. Now they are a much larger portion — more than a quarter of the beverage market by some estimates.
One study determined that about 80 percent of plastic soda bottles are recycled in New York, but only about 16 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled.
RIT President William Destler said at Wednesday's news conference that expansion of the bill is a matter of common sense.
"It makes no sense to treat a water bottle or Gatorade bottle different than a Pepsi bottle," he said.
Past attempts at expanding the bottle bill have been unsuccessful, often stymied by Senate Republicans. However, the Senate is now in Democratic control, possibly altering the fate of the bill.
Under the current law, container manufacturers keep the unclaimed nickel deposits, which amount to more than $100 million a year. Paterson wants that money to be returned to the state for environmental projects.
Many store owners and businesses have mounted a campaign against the expanded bottle bill, contending that stores could be overwhelmed by the need for more space to handle additional recyclables. Also, opponents contend, the environmental impact will be minimal.