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April 1, 2009

The Daily Gazette

Acceptable compromise on bottle bill

It only took seven years, but, with its inclusion in the tentative budget agreement by the state’s leaders, it looks as if New York state will finally have a Bigger, Better Bottle Bill. Some things are worth waiting for, and this is surely one of them.

The bill is a compromise, with neither environmentalists nor the beverage industry getting everything they wanted. The environmentalists wanted to expand the current nickel deposit on beer and soda containers to bottled water, bottled teas, energy drinks and other noncarbonated beverages. They also wanted to take all unclaimed deposits, which total more than $100 million a year and are currently kept by the beverage industry, and turn them over to the Environmental Protection Fund.

The industry, of course, wanted to keep all those unclaimed nickels, and to avoid burdening consumers and businesses with the added costs of buying and handling new deposit drink containers.

Compromise No. 1 was to put a deposit only on bottled water, which represents, by far, most of the noncarbonated beverage sales and related litter. Since the bottle law originally took effect in 1983, it has become hard to find a beer or soda container along the roadside. That’s because most of the purchasers either responsibly return it for the deposit or put it in the recycling bin for the garbage collector. If they don’t, and it just gets tossed, it’s not long before some enterprising sort picks it up and brings it back to the store for the deposit.

Compromise No. 2 was to take just 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits for the general fund and leave the industry with the rest.

Compromise No. 3 was to increase the handling fee for grocery and convenience stores and redemption centers from 2 cents to 3.5 cents.

Raising the deposit to a dime and adding beverages beyond water, as this newspaper has long advocated, would have been even better, raising the recycling rate and further reducing litter at the same time as it raised revenue. But that can be done later. This is a compromise worth supporting.


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