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Post date: May 17 2002

Spitzer, State Lawmakers Push For Expanded Bottle Bill

Standing on the shore of the Hudson River in Yonkers, Attorney General Spitzer today announced his support for comprehensive new legislation to expand the state "bottle bill" to include non-carbonated beverage containers, provide over $84 million yearly for local recycling and waste prevention programs and improve curbside recycling programs across the state.

In a related development, a leading environmental group released a study funded by the Attorney General’s office showing that the bulk of the state’s litter problem is caused by containers that are not covered by the current state bottle bill.

Spitzer was joined in his call for a stronger bottle bill by Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli (D-Nassau), chair of the State Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee, Assemblyman William Colton (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Legislative Commission on Solid Waste Management and Assemblywoman Naomi Matusow (D-Westchester).

"Our 20-year old bottle bill has been a phenomenal success at keeping billions of containers out of our landfills and off our streets in the form of roadside litter," said Spitzer. "However, the bottle bill can be made even better if we update it to include categories of containers – like bottled waters, sports drinks and fruit juices – that barely existed in the marketplace when the law was enacted in 1982."

Spitzer and the three lawmakers announced that a comprehensive new bill was introduced today which adds non-carbonated beverage containers to the bottle deposit law. The bill also directs more than $84 million annually in unredeemed bottle deposits to municipal recycling programs; clarifies current law by prohibiting waste haulers from dumping recyclables at landfills and incinerators; and establishes a list of materials that must be included in curbside recycling programs.

Assemblyman DiNapoli said: "The legislation I have introduced, with the support of Attorney General Spitzer, will significantly improve the current law by requiring deposits on more beverages, capturing the estimated $84 million in unclaimed nickels to enhance local recycling, prohibiting the dumping of recyclables at landfills and incinerators, and specifying the materials that must be included in curbside recycling programs."

Assemblyman Colton said: "There has been a recent proposal to eliminate metal, glass and plastic curbside recycling in New York City due to the budget shortfall. However, this shortsighted approach will only increase the cost of disposal. The proposal we are announcing today will significantly help New York City to continue and expand its recycling and waste prevention programs."

Assemblywoman Matusow said: "Non-returnable containers still litter New York’s parks and roadsides. I am pleased to join Attorney General Spitzer and Assemblymen DiNapoli and Colton in working to expand the list of containers that will be subject to deposit. By improving the existing bottle bill, we will continue to improve our environment."

Scenic Hudson, Inc., a leading environmental protection organization in the Hudson Valley, today released findings of its recent riverbank trash survey showing that the majority of beverage containers littering Hudson River shorelines do not have a five cent deposit. These findings bolster Spitzer’s and the lawmakers’ efforts to expand the 20-year old bottle bill to include these categories of containers.

"Without a deposit, there is no financial incentive to return non-carbonated beverage containers," said Spitzer. "Non-carbonated beverages, such as bottled water and sports drinks, are the fastest-growing sector in the beverage industry. Including these containers in the bottle bill would make it a more robust and effective anti-pollution law."

Scenic Hudson’s trash survey this spring was funded through a recent settlement between Attorney General Spitzer and the Pepsi-Cola company to resolve allegations that the company had violated the state’s deposit law. As part of the settlement, Pepsi provided $40,000 to Scenic Hudson to expand its annual " Great River Sweep" litter cleanup, and to report to the Attorney General’s Office on the quantity and type of beverage containers collected.

While 22 percent of the beverage containers sold in New York State are non-deposit containers, the Scenic Hudson litter survey found they made up more than 60% of the beverage containers collected as part of the Great River Sweep cleanups, underscoring the need to expand the bottle bill. The Container Recycling Institute has estimated that in 1999 (the last year for which data are available) 11.4 billion beverage containers were sold in New York State.

Andy Bicking, Public Outreach and Volunteer Manager for Scenic Hudson, said: "For five years, Scenic Hudson’s Great River Sweep has united thousands of volunteers from Manhattan to the Adirondacks in a trash cleanup effort. We were eager to broaden this year’s event by conducting this litter survey. Scenic Hudson hopes our data is useful to the Attorney General’s Office in protecting and enhancing the environment across the state."

June 15 will mark the 20th anniversary of the state’s bottle bill. It is considered one of the most successful laws in the nation at reducing litter and promoting recycling and re-use. More than 5 million tons of glass and plastic bottles have been kept out of landfills and recycled due to the law.

"Beverage industry data show that consumers in the Northeast drink more bottled water than beer," said Spitzer. "We do not want those bottled water containers littering our landscapes or filling our landfills. It is time to include them in a modern, more comprehensive bottle bill."

Current state law also allows the beverage industry to keep the bottle deposits that are not redeemed by consumers, providing a windfall to industry of over $84 million annually. Massachusetts and Michigan require that unclaimed deposits be returned to the state. DiNapoli’s legislation would use the unredeemed deposits to bolster municipal recycling and waste reduction programs.

"The expanded bottle bill enlists the private sector to help communities address waste disposal," said Spitzer. "The DiNapoli bill further helps local governments by directing that unclaimed deposits be dedicated to funding recycling programs – programs that work and that enjoy strong support throughout the state."

Bottle Bill Fact Sheet

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Statistics for the period October 1, 1999 - September 30, 2000:

  • Consumers paid a total of $275 million in beverage container deposits on 5.5 billion beverage containers.
  • Consumers redeemed 3.8 billion empty containers for approximately $190 million.
  • Bottlers and distributors that initiated the deposits kept $85 in unclaimed deposits.

The Department of Environmental Conservation figures are based on reports from beverage bottlers and distributors. However, not all of these firms file reports with the state. An analysis of beverage industry sales data by the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) suggests that the Department of Environmental Conservation reports underestimate the number of containers sold in New York.

In 1999, the last year for which data are currently available, CRI estimates that New York State consumers purchased 8.9 billion soda and beer containers (currently covered under the bottle deposit law), and paid approximately $445 million in deposits. CRI estimates that New York state consumers purchased 2.5 billion containers of bottled water, fruit drinks, tea, and sports drinks, which are not covered under the current law.

Based on the CRI figures, and assuming the same deposit redemption rate as DEC reports:

  • consumers redeemed approximately 6.2 billion empty containers for approximately $308 million.
  • bottlers and distributors kept approximately $137 million in unclaimed deposits.
  • under an expanded bottle deposit law, approximately $177 million would be available in unclaimed deposits.

For further information on beverage sales in New York State, contact the Container Recycling Institute, 703-276-9800.