May 21, 2009
Changed bottle law proposed
State-only UPC bar code would be eliminated
ALBANY — Gov. David Paterson on Wednesday proposed amending the expanded bottle law passed last month to eliminate the requirement for a New York-only UPC bar code on returnable containers.
Retailers, distributors and bottlers are vexed by the bar code mandate, now scheduled to take effect June 1. They say it would be virtually impossible to implement by June and would add costly complications to production and distribution systems.
Paterson's amendments would delay expansion of the deposit and redemption system to water bottles until July 1, and would delay the requirement that bar codes be placed on all individual containers — bottles packaged for bulk retail sale often lack individual codes — until Oct. 1.
Those aspects of the bill are similar to versions being discussed in the Senate and the Assembly, but one portion of the governor's amendments could be a sticking point for the Legislature.
Paterson proposes to roll back a provision of the new law to increase the handling fee paid to supermarkets and other big retailers that accept large numbers of returns.
The so-called "bigger, better bottle bill" hiked the current 2-cent handling fee to 3.5 cents. The higher fee was intended to help retailers cover the additional cost of collecting billions of water bottles each year.
Paterson's amendments maintain the increase for smaller retailers and redemption centers, while keeping the level at 2 cents for stores of 10,000 square feet or more.
The two-tiered system outraged representatives of supermarkets when Paterson's staff floated it last week.
One new apparent wrinkle in Paterson's proposal, however, would allow retailers to apply for exemptions to a requirement that they install more reverse-vending machines to handle the redemption of additional bottles.
Spokesmen for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith said late Wednesday afternoon that Paterson's legislation had just been received and was being reviewed.
"There are some similarities to other pieces of legislation our members have introduced," said Travis Proulx, a spokesman for Smith.
"By next week, we should have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done and what we are going to do, but at this point, we are still in the review process," he said.