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April 22, 2009

The Villager

Government is starting to get with green program

As New Yorkers have become more concerned about global warming, pollution and sustainability, their elected officials have started to get the message.

The city and state have recently adopted several policies that encourage recycling and carbon emission reduction.

In the recently passed state budget, a revamped Returnable Container Act, also known as the bottle deposit law, was passed to include bottled water and for 80 percent of uncollected deposits — an increase from zero percent under the old law — to go back to the state’s general fund.

“It’s going to reduce litter and increase recycling,” said Laura Haight, a senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, which worked on the law’s passage for the past seven years.

The initial bottle deposit law passed in 1982 mandated a 5-cent deposit on soda and beer containers, and led to more than 90 billion bottles and cans being redeemed and then recycled to keep more than 6 million tons of glass, plastic and metal out of the state’s landfills and incinerators. The addition of bottled water will encourage more recycling of the 3 billion water containers sold in the state each year, according to Haight.

NYPIRG estimates that the 80 percent of uncollected deposits that will now go to state could generate as much as $115 million per year. Since the law’s inception, the beverage industry has kept more than $2 billion in uncollected deposits. Adding revenue to the state coffers at a time of massive budget gaps made passage of the law easier.

“The state’s deficit was significant, they really needed this money,” Haight said.

Under the law, any store that sells a container with a deposit has to redeem it. Many large food stores, such as the Key Food on Avenue A and the Whole Foods Market on East Houston St., have machines that accept containers for recycling. The expanded bill will go into effect on June 1.


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