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January 7, 2009

Water Technology Online

New year brings new look at bottled water laws

PORTLAND, OR and ALBANY, NY — The new year has brought renewed focus on state efforts to add bottled water and other non-carbonated beverage containers to existing container-deposit laws that already cover carbonated beverages, according to various reports. Two examples:

● Oregon’s expansion of its container-deposit law to bottled water went into effect January 1, although state officials say many of the state’s retailers and manufacturers haven’t complied yet, a January 7 Portland Business Journal article said.

Under Oregon’s expanded law, retailers can only sell bottled water with labels showing the bottles have a 5-cent refund value in Oregon. The article said the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) has found that several brands for sale on store shelves don’t have such labels. Only bottles with the label marked “OR 5¢” are eligible for a refund.

An OLCC spokesman was quoted as saying the agency will conduct inspections across the state starting the week of January 12. He also said the OLCC has been working with retailers and manufacturers for the past 18 months to ensure their understanding of and compliance with the new law.

Meanwhile, retailers and others were reporting a crush of people trying to redeem bottles over the first weekend in the year, according to a January 6 article in The Oregonian. Snowstorm delays and the new bottled-water rule likely combined to cause long lines at redemption locations, the article said.

● In New York state, environmentalists and others say chances are better this year for passage of legislation that would expand the scope of the state’s container-deposit law to include water bottles. Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, proposed such a move last year, but was blocked by the Republican-controlled state Senate. This year, Democrats gained the majority in the Senate and also control the other legislative branch, the state Assembly.

Spitzer’s successor, Gov. David Paterson, also a Democrat, didn’t mention expansion of the New York container law in his January 7 “State of the State” speech, according to a prepared text, but the proposal was included in his Executive Budget plan sent to the legislature in December. It would add a 5-cent deposit to non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water, iced teas, and sports drinks. Under such a law, the state would recover about $100 million more per year in unclaimed deposits from the beverage industry for use in New York's Environmental Protection Fund.

Paterson’s speech this week did mention a proposal to tack a surcharge, which has been called his “obesity tax,” onto purchases of non-alcoholic beverages containing sugar, to fight childhood obesity and help close a large state budget gap.

That proposal has the state’s beverage industry in an uproar. Susan Neely, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association (ABA), said in a statement that Paterson’s proposed tax is a “money grab” that will raise taxes on middle class families and threaten thousands of jobs across the state.


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