Settlements Boost State Bottle Law

Attorney General Spitzer today announced five settlements that will strengthen and enhance compliance with the state’s bottle law, and renewed his call to extend the five-cent deposit requirement to non-carbonated beverages.

The first four settlements require four major drug store chains to accept returnable bottles and cans. The fifth settlement resolves a problem with The Pepsi-Cola Company over promotions that inadvertently rendered bottles unredeemable.

"New York State’s bottle deposit law is one of the most effective environmental laws on the books to reduce litter and boost recycling," said Spitzer. "But without strict enforcement, its benefits will not be fully realized."

The Attorney General’s Office and the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) conducted a statewide survey that found a significant number of drug stores sell returnable beverage containers and charge the required five-cent deposit, but fail to redeem the containers.

The Attorney General’s office contacted major drug store chains -- including Duane Reade, CVS, Rite Aid and Genovese -- with the findings of the study and began negotiations that resulted in the following agreement.

The four companies, which together operate 1,300 stores in New York, will:

  • Post "bottle bill of rights" signs in all stores to make the return process easier for consumers;
  • Implement a monitoring program to ensure stores remain in compliance;
  • Promote redemption through advertising or by using reverse vending machines; and,
  • Provide better training of in store staff.
The companies also agreed to pay a total of $66,000 to the state to settle the case and to offset the cost of investigation. Spitzer commended the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and its volunteer staff for assisting in the case. NYPIRG is a non-profit consumer, environmental and government reform organization.

Blair Horner, legislative director of NYPIRG, said: "The bottle bill is a state treasure, but instead it has been hampered by drug stores that refuse to obey the law. We applaud Attorney General Spitzer for shining a public spotlight on this critical solid waste measure."

Spitzer also announced an agreement with Pepsi-Cola that resolves a problem with recent promotions of soft drink bottles.

Pepsi ran several promotions that required consumers to remove the labels of refundable beverage containers to see whether they had won a prize. If they removed the labels, however, consumers were unable to redeem the containers and recover their deposits.

As a result of Spitzer’s investigation, Pepsi has agreed to change its label marketing promotions to comply with the law, pay $10,000 to the state to settle the matter, and pay an additional $40,000 to enhance beverage container collection and recycling.

"Successful implementation of the bottle bill begins with the bottlers and distributors," said Spitzer. "I am pleased that Pepsi, one of the largest bottlers in New York State and a great homegrown company, is cooperating with our effort and has agreed to improve its compliance with the law."

New York’s beverage deposit law has been in effect since 1983. More than 5 million tons of material have been diverted from the waste stream and recycled due to the law. However, because they were not very common when the law was enacted many of popular drinks now on the market – iced tea, sport drinks, fruit drinks, and bottled water – and are not covered under the law. Spitzer called on the Legislature to pass The Bottle Bill Expansion Act, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle and Assemblyman William Colton, in the upcoming legislative session.

The bill would amend the bottle deposit law to include these new products and would increase the amount of material that is recycled and help reduce litter throughout the state.

"It is time for the Legislature to expand the bottle bill," said Spitzer. "Soon, there could be more beverage containers in the marketplace that are not covered under the beverage deposit law than containers that are included. Without a deposit, these containers are more likely to litter our communities and less likely to be recycled."

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