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June 13, 2009

The Post-Standard
Letter to the editor

Bottle Law, Now!
New York can't wait a year

Bigger and Better, sat on a wall.
Bigger and Better had a great fall.
All the co-sponsors and all the guv's men,
Could not put Bigger together again.

June 1 should have been a historic day for New York's environment. After a long campaign involving hundreds of groups, businesses and recycling advocates, a significant victory was achieved when the governor and the state Legislature approved the Bigger Better Bottle Bill this spring.

The expansion to water bottles and other key elements of the new law were scheduled to go into effect June 1. But on May 29, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa delayed implementation of all the new updates to the bottle law until April 1, 2010.


This ruling went well beyond what Nestle and the other water-bottling companies were seeking in their lawsuit. It not only delays the expansion to water bottles, but extends to all other parts of the new law, including the transfer of 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits to the state, and the 1.5-cent handling fee increase for stores and redemption centers.

As a result, the state will lose at least $115 million this year in revenue from the unclaimed deposits, which will throw New York's recently enacted state budget out of balance. More than two billion water bottles will end up in the waste stream rather than recycled.

How did this happen? While many businesses raised concerns that the new law's labeling requirements were impossible to meet by June 1, the governor, Assembly and Senate failed to come to an agreement on amending the law in a timely fashion. As a result, the decision to delay the bottle bill was made in court.

Although no one could have predicted the judge's decision, this matter need not ever have reached the courtroom.

On Earth Day, nearly 50 environmental groups presented awards to Gov. David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for enacting this important environmental law. Now we hope they will do everything in their power to bring the bottle bill back on track as soon as possible so that our environment, businesses and budget will not suffer.

Redemption centers depend on the income received for each deposit container. Currently, that is 2 cents. This increase to 3.5 cents is long overdue. When the law was written 11 years ago, the minimum wage was $3.35 per hour. Increasing the handling fee is not a bailout or handout. Many centers have closed and other have gone into debt, believing relief was in sight.

Closing these small businesses costs New York more jobs, and will increase the number of redemptions to be handled by the markets and put a hole in the money-raising possibilities for schools, other worthwhile organizations and the "street miners" who reduce our unsightly litter.

New York cannot wait until April 2010. The environment will suffer. The state will lose $115 million, and jobs will be lost. Please contact your senators and representatives and ask them to save "Bigger and Better" as soon as possible.

Martha Loew lives in Jamesville.

http://blog.syracuse.com/opinion/2009/06/bottle_law_now.html


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