May 18, 2009
Remove provisions in bottle bill
We have been anything but shy over the years about criticizing New York's state Legislature for its inability to get things done.
We didn't know when we had it good.
That New York's new bottle law managed to get through the Assembly and Senate is somehow not terribly surprising, but still incredibly disappointing.
As best we can determine, the main result of the law, scheduled to take effect June 1, would be to drive local breweries and other bottlers out of business.
There's nothing wrong with extending to non-carbonated beverages the 1983 legislation that made carbonated beverage bottles returnable.
We're not exactly certain why anybody buys bottled water when what you get out of the tap in our area is just as good or better than the store-bought brands.
However, it's a fact that people do buy water and other non-carbonated drinks in great numbers. So, it's not unreasonable to want those plastic containers to be recycled.
However, what is terribly unreasonable is a provision forcing beverage-makers to mark all their products with new bar codes showing they are being sold in New York.
All the businesses would have to keep separate inventories and records for products sold in New York. We agree with Stan Hall, president of the Cooperstown Brewery Co., who said new labeling equipment would cost thousands of dollars, and the sorting of beers by destination would be inefficient.
``We sell beer in Florida, Massachusetts and other places, but we don't know in advance how much is going where,'' Hall said. "Requirements like this are just going to kill small brewers.''
Even if local breweries wanted to comply, June 1 appears to be unrealistic given that they need more time to set up their operations to provide the proper bar codes.
Industry officials also aren't happy about a provision that would give 80 percent of the revenue from unclaimed deposits to the state rather than the beverage industry, as occurs now.
They say they would have to charge consumers more to make up for what the companies will lose.
We're hoping that what the Legislature giveth, the Legislature can taketh away. To his credit, state Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, voted against the portion of the budget containing the bottle bill. Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, did not, and apparently regrets it.
``There are two bills in the Assembly now, one to postpone when the law takes effect, and another to remove the UPC (Universal Product Code, or bar code) requirement and postpone the rest of it,'' Magee said.
"It's not a good bill at all," said Seward spokesman Jeff Bishop.
We couldn't agree more.