March 6, 2009
The new bottle bill
Now tweaked, it's time Albany passed it
Have you noticed the plastic water bottles littering our state? Do you enjoy the juggling act of returning empty beer and soda bottles to the store, but water and tea bottles to the curb? Albany can change that - and it really should - by expanding the state's original bottle bill.
That elusive goal now seems closer than ever, after some still-needed tweaks and compromises. It's about time. The law that took effect in 1983 sharply reduced litter, by offering an economic incentive: the nickel deposit that people could collect for returning used bottles and cans. But it covered only carbonated drinks like beer and soda. Since then, the sales of fizz-free beverages - water, tea, juice and sports drinks - have soared. And too many of those containers end up as litter. The solution: Apply the nickel deposit to them, too.
The Assembly routinely passes the Bigger Better Bottle Bill; the Senate doesn't. But the newly Democratic Senate actually held a hearing Wednesday, which is a big step forward. Another is set for today. The budget crisis helps, too. The bill, now part of the budget, would also take back for the state all the nickels the bottlers have been keeping when people fail to return used bottles.
There are still concerns about how it will affect supermarkets that sell store brands. And there will likely be more compromise: The state might let bottlers keep a portion of the nickels from unclaimed deposits. The containers covered might get narrowed down to just water, which is the bulk of the litter problem.
In some form, it's time for this bill to pass. It will go a long way toward cleaning up the litter mess, give the state needed revenue and make recycling more rational.