October 29th, 2010
For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact:
Laura Haight, NYPIRG, 518-588-5481
Susan Collins, CRI, 310-559-7451
On First Anniversary of NY's Bottle Law Expansion, Early Returns Show Strong Signs of Success
October 31st marks the one-year anniversary of the expansion of New York’s beverage container deposit law, known as the “Bottle Bill,” to include bottled water. While it is too early to measure the full benefits of the new law, state and national recycling advocates are hailing the first year as a success.
“Consumers have adjusted easily to the expanded bottle bill and it is already delivering on its promise of a cleaner and healthier environment,” said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group. “It has also created new jobs for small businesses and generated critically needed revenue for the state.” Haight noted that:
- In its first year of implementation, the state of New York has collected over $120 million in unclaimed deposits from the expanded bottle bill, according to Taxation and Finance data, on target with the state’s budget projections of $118 million;
- A survey of supermarkets and convenience stores in February found that 93% of the stores surveyed were complying with the law’s redemption requirements, and most of the water bottles sold were properly labeled;
- The number of registered redemption centers which take back empty containers grew by 113 in 2009 and an additional 131 as of October 2010. Many of these small businesses have been able to expand and increase their employees’ wages and benefits.
Nationally, plastic recycling got a significant boost in 2009 due to the expansion of bottle laws in New York, Connecticut and Oregon to include bottled water, most of which is sold in PET plastic bottles.
According to Susan Collins, Executive Director of the Container Recycling Institute, “We are seeing excellent growth in recycling rates in the container deposit-refund programs around the country. The expansions in New York, Connecticut and Oregon added nearly four and a half billion containers to deposit programs, and have the potential to increase the nation’s overall beverage container recycling rate by two percentage points.”
Collins continued, “PET reclaimers in the U.S. are hungry for this material. They are busy building new plants in the U.S., and can staff them with new employees as long as the materials are available to them.”
In 2009, New York State updated the Returnable Beverage Container Act (popularly known as the Bottle Bill) and added water bottles to the list of beverage containers requiring a minimum 5-cent refundable deposit. Under the new law, beverage companies are now required to transfer 80% of the unredeemed deposits to the state General Fund (previously, beverage companies kept all the unclaimed deposits). In addition, the new law increased the handling fee for retailers and redeemers to 3.5 cents per container (previously, the handling fee had been set at 2 cents since 1997). The expansion went into effect on October 31st, 2009, after a 5-month delay due to a lawsuit from the bottled water industry.
A statewide survey of retailers conducted by NYPIRG in February 2010 found widespread compliance with the new law, making the transition for consumers of bottled water relatively seamless. The vast majority of retailers surveyed accepted water bottles back for redemption (93%). Most of the stores only sold properly labeled water bottles (75%) or only had one or two brands of water that were not properly labeled (20%). The only widespread compliance problem documented was the failure by most stores (74%) to post the signage required under the new law notifying consumers of their rights.
While the state of New York has not yet collected its annual survey data on beverage container sales and redemption for the period since the expansion went into effect, Collins noted that in Oregon, which added a deposit on water bottles on January 1, 2009, the quantity of rigid plastic containers collected increased 18% from 2008 to 2009. Oregon’s 2009 Material Recovery and Waste Generation Rates Report says this “likely shows the effect of including water bottles” in that state’s container deposit-refund system. Nationally, PET recycling rates increased 1% from 2008 to 2009, according to the National Association of PET Container Recovery (NAPCOR) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR.)
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