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January 8, 2011

Poughkeepsie Journal

Bottle-deposit law should go further

Slightly more than a year ago, New York state officially expanded its bottle deposit law, something that should have been done years ago — and something that clearly was going to be an overall benefit to the state.

The results are showing that to be the case.

The state has had a bottle-deposit law for more than a quarter century, requiring 5-cent deposits on beer and soda, but last year's change updated the law to include water bottles. That should have been simple enough but it got bogged down in all sorts of Albany politics, as the beverage industry lobbied hard against the measure.

But the state ultimately approved the expansion and is on target to exceed its goal of collecting $118 million in unclaimed deposits from the expanded bottle bill. Under the law, beverage companies have to transfer 80 percent of the unredeemed deposits to the state general fund, whereas before the companies kept all the unclaimed deposits.

While the money distribution formula is important, the bottle deposit is predominately a sound environmental policy. The state says about 6 billion of the beer and soda containers are returned annually — it estimates 3.2 billion water bottles will be added to that number under the expansion. Last year, The New York Public Interest Research Group conducted a statewide survey and found widespread compliance with the new law, with vast majority of retailers confirming they accepted water bottles back for redemption

Just as significant, the number of registered redemption centers taking back the empty containers has grown, a modest boost for private business and a positive development that wasn't discussed much during the years-long debate about expanding the bottle bill

The state has every reason to go further. While water bottles were added this last time around, state officials left sports drinks, iced tea and other beverages out of the mix.

Then-Gov. David Paterson initially pitched the deposit expansion in that manner, but settled on just water during budget negotiations with lawmakers last year. The expansion has been good, but it can still be better, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers have good reason to improve it.


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