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[greenyes] Albany Times Union..."Expand the bottle law"

The Albany Times Union endorses the expanded bottle bill in New York.
Albany Times Union

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Expand the bottle law

With vast changes in the marketplace, and a state cash crunch, it's time for

T o many New Yorkers who redeem their nickel deposits on soda and beer
containers, that's the way it has always been. They are now in their early
20s, and too young to remember the divisive political battles that preceded
the enactment of New York's bottle bill in 1982. Back then, it was a
struggle between environmentalists, who argued that a five-cent deposit on
the containers would reduce litter along highways and riverbanks, and the
beverage industry, which warned of adding yet another burden on the back of
business.With more than two decades of experience to look back upon, it
seems safe to say the bottle bill is a success. While some industry
executives take the opposite view, insisting that the law remains a great
inconvenience for small grocers, it's hard to argue with the statistics put
forth by environmental advocates who estimate that 80 billion bottles and
cans have been redeemed since 1982. That's a lot of litter off the streets
and the landscape.

It's also a strong argument for expanding the bill to cover containers that
weren't on the shelves 22 years ago, including bottled water, juices, health
drinks and other noncarbonated beverages. And they add up. An attorney for
the National Resources Defense Council told The New York Times that as many
as 2.6 billion bottles and cans aren't covered under the current law. But
they could be if the Legislature and Gov. Pataki were to support Assemblyman
Thomas DiNapoli, D-Long Island, who wants to expand the bottle law as a way
for the state to raise much-needed cash. With a projected budget deficit
pegged at $5 billion, it would seem that Mr. DiNapoli's proposal is an an
idea whose time has arrived, and then some.

The state would benefit under the DiNapoli measure because it would gain a
share of the unclaimed deposit money that is estimated to run as high as
$150 million a year. Under current law, the unclaimed money goes to the
bottlers to pay for the cost of collection centers, and the industry wants
to keep it that way. It's a valid point. But as this page has recommended in
the past, the best way to address the industry concerns would be to double
the deposit on each container to 10 cents, and have the industry share the
unclaimed funds with the state.

A much weaker argument against an expanded bottle bill is that it would be a
new tax on consumers, or, as come industry critics claim, a "children's tax"
because it would fall heavily on the beverages consumed by the young. But a
deposit is not a tax. It becomes one only if the consumer chooses not to
seek a refund. Then and only then.

Patricia Franklin
Executive Director
Container Recycling Institute
1911 N. Fort Myer Drive, Ste. 702
Arlington, VA 22209

TEL: 703.276.9800
FAX: 703.276.9587
EMAIL: pfranklin@no.address

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