A.G. Schneiderman Sues Monroe County Beverage Distributor For Repeated Violations Of New York’s Bottle Bill

Lawsuit Accuses Juice Factory Corp. of Pocketing $80,000 In Unclaimed Bottle Deposits Owed The State

Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Aggressively Enforce New York’s Environmental Laws By Ensuring That Everyone Plays By The Same Set Of Rules

NEW YORK – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced a lawsuit alleging that Monroe County-based The Juice Factory Corp. for repeatedly violating multiple provisions of New York’s Returnable Container Act, otherwise known as the Bottle Bill.  Investigations by the Attorney General’s Office and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) revealed that for over two years, The Juice Factory collected deposits on beverage containers it sold in Monroe and Erie counties but failed to send $79,571 in unclaimed deposits to the State, as required by law. 

 The suit was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Monroe County.  

“The Bottle Bill is one of New York’s hallmark environmental laws.  Companies that skirt the Bottle Bill not only hurt recycling and litter prevention efforts, but also cheat the State out of money that benefits the public,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As our suit alleges, The Juice Factory broke the law by pocketing tens of thousands of dollars in unclaimed deposits that it owed to the State.  We will continue to aggressively enforce New York’s Bottle Bill and other environmental laws by ensuring that everyone plays by the same set of rules.” 

“Unclaimed deposits support important environmental programs that protect our environment, reduce the amount of waste disposed in landfills and save energy,” DEC Commissioner Martens said. “Companies have a responsibility to comply with our state’s environmental laws, but in this case, the Juice Company violated those laws and the public trust.  I commend DEC investigators and our partners in the Attorney General’s Office and Tax Department for taking decisive action to ensure compliance with New York’s Bottle Bill law and put an end to deceptive practices that took advantage of consumers.”

According to the DEC, New York’s Bottle Bill has done a great deal to create a cleaner and healthier New York. The Bottle Bill program has reduced roadside container litter by 70 percent; recycled 90 billion containers, equal to 6 million tons of materials, at no cost to local governments; saved more than 52 million barrels of oil, and eliminated 200,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.

New York’s Bottle Bill requires that there be a deposit of at least a 5-cents indicated on every beverage container covered by the law and that the deposit is collected on every beverage container that is sold in the State.  The entity that first sells or offers the beverage for sale in the State, and collects the first nickel deposit, is the “deposit initiator.”  The deposit initiator must register with the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance before selling in the State, and maintain a refund account for the deposits collected and from which to reimburse retailers and redemption centers that return empty containers that have been redeemed by consumers. Deposit initiators must remit to the State 80% of the unclaimed deposits held in the account on a quarterly basis.

The requirements that deposit initiators register with the State, establish a refund account, and remit 80% of all unclaimed deposits that accrue in that account was added by the State Legislature in 2009 to allow for a large portion of the unclaimed deposits to be paid over to the State, which were all previously kept by distributors.  Amendments to the law in 2013 provide for all monies collected through enforcement efforts to be deposited into the Environmental Protection Fund.  

The investigation conducted by Attorney General Schneiderman and DEC found that, between August 2009 and December 2011, The Juice Factory acted as a deposit initiator within the meaning of the Bottle Bill and repeatedly sold and collected deposits on Day’s brand soda it sold in Monroe and Erie counties, according to the suit.  Throughout this time, The Juice Factory failed to register as a deposit initiator with the State, failed to create a separate deposit refund account, and failed to remit the required 80% of unclaimed deposits to the State. Records indicate that the company collected $99,464 in deposits for a period spanning more than two years. However, The Juice Factory allegedly failed to remit to the State any of the required 80% of unclaimed deposits, an amount totaling $79,571. 

According to the complaint, State officials notified The Juice Factory on several occasions during the course of its investigation that the company was in violation of provisions of the Bottle Bill and instructed the company to come into compliance.  However, The Juice Factory ignored these warnings.  

In the lawsuit filed today, Attorney General Schneiderman asks the court to take several actions against The Juice Factory for its multiple, repeated violations of the state Bottle Bill.  These include ordering The Juice Factory to:  

  • pay penalties, as provided for in the law, for violations of the Bottle Bill; 
  • pay $79,571, plus interest, in restitution to the state; and
  • fully comply with all requirements of the Bottle Bill in the future.  

Under a 2013 amendment to the Bottle Bill, all enforcement proceeds are to be deposited in the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

In January, Attorney General Schneiderman obtained a settlement against a New Jersey-based company that underpaid New York nearly $330,000 in bottle deposits.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanks the DEC and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance for their assistance.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Jane Cameron and Andrew Gershon of the Environmental Protection Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Social Justice division is led by Executive Deputy Attorney Alvin Bragg. DEC Investigator Christopher T. Didion, Lieutenant Richard Thomas, Senior Attorney Cristin T. Clarke, and Environmental Program Specialist Jennifer Krumanassisted in this matter, as did Department of Taxation and Finance Deputy Counsel Deborah R. Liebman and Taxpayer Assistance Specialist David Foster.