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April 22, 2009

Utica OD

Bottle bill aims to clean up environment

Some state legislators are praising a new bottle bill but the newly-passed law concerns some area companies.

A state senator involved with crafting the “Bigger, Better, Bottle Bill,” signed into law April 7, said the initiative will bring in some $115 million in revenues and keep the environment clean.

But one local businessman said the law is bad for business.

“From our point of view, it is very bad legislation,” said Nick Matt, of F.X. Matt Brewery.

Matt said the brewery will incur an added expense because it will have to create another version of the Universal Product Code labels for every product it makes.

That’s because the law now requires New York state-only UPC labels on some containers so that the state does not pay money to consumers who bought cans or bottles in neighboring states.

The law requires the labels for containers intended only for New York.

That means that Matt brewery, for example, must now make two different UPC labels for its Pale Ale six-pack — one version for the ale it sells in the state, and another version for the ale it sells everywhere else.

The same applies to its other beers, ales and soft drinks.

“The UPC codes will cost us money because we’ll have to make a separate label for all of those products,” he said.

Matt did not have an estimate of how much it’ll cost the brewery to produce the separate UPC labels.

The bill also expands the bottle redemption to include plain bottled water and bumps up the costs for beverage distributors.

The distributors will now have to pay retailers 3.5 cents per container to handle recyclables instead of 2 cents.

Though the bill increases costs for some businesses, some legislators say it will reap green benefits.

State Sen. Antoine Thompson, of Buffalo, is chair of the state’s environmental committee.

He said some 2.5 billion containers of bottled water are sold in the state annually — 70 percent of noncarbonated beverages sold in the state.

The new law will help get discarded bottled-water containers off of farmland, beaches, parks and roads and keep them out of landfills, Thompson said.

That’s because legislators believe more people are going to hang onto and return water bottles in order to reclaim the deposit.

Thompson said those who stand to benefit include “The environment and the residents of New York who want to see fewer products going into the landfill; farmers who want to see fewer of their animals eating these bottles and getting sick, and people who clean up these bottles on beaches.”

He said the new law will bring in $115 million in revenues from unclaimed deposits.

The state will keep 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits while businesses will keep 20 percent of the unclaimed deposits, he said.

He said state lawmakers and officials have met with distributors, retailers and businesses affected by the law to talk about the law and reach a compromise.

“We’ve met with them and we’ve tried to address many of the concerns,” Thompson said. “Whether (businesses) are for or against the bill, they can’t say it was not an open and public process.”


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