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April 22, 2009

Watertown Daily Times

N.Y. bottle bill
Clean up secretly drafted legislation

Even before New York's "bigger, better" bottle bill takes effect, there is talk about revisions that would be unnecessary if the law had been drafted in an open legislative process instead of by three men in a room.

Starting June 1, the state will add water bottles to the beer and soda containers requiring a 5-cent deposit to encourage recycling. The bottles and cans will also have to be stamped with a universal product code identifying them for in-state distribution to prevent consumers from returning cans purchased out of state for the nickel deposit in New York.

Bottlers, who were left out of bill discussions by the state's leadership, object that there is not enough time to meet the June 1 deadline for creating new state-specific labels.

The requirement could cause some bottlers to leave the state or restrict the choices they offer consumers. Pennsylvania brewer D.G. Yuengling & Son has already told Gov. David A. Paterson they might leave the state.

Enforcement presents a time-consuming and costly problem as well. Who will be responsible for verifying that every returned water bottle was purchased in-state? Distributors? Will small redemption centers have to install scanning machines so workers can individually check the UPC on every bottle or can? And then what happens to rejected containers?

At the same time the bill imposes a greater burden on distributors, it also increases their cost of doing business in New York. Distributors will have to add 1.5 cents per container to the 2 cents they now pay handlers. Since the state intends to siphon off about $115 million a year in unclaimed deposits, distributors can expect greater oversight to ensure the state gets its share.

The added costs involved will likely be passed onto consumers. By one distributor's estimate, the bill could add 15 cents a bottle to consumers' costs.

These are consequences of passing a bill without public input and with virtually no hearings. Now Gov. Paterson and the Legislature need to address the problems.


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