New York's bottle bill turned 25 last year. Fred LeBrun has an interesting column in Wednesday's Albany Times Union regarding an enhanced bottle bill that has been kicking around the NY legislature for a number of years. It has passed the NY Assembly but has been stalled in the Senate.
His column follows on the heels of an article by TU Capitol Bureau reporter Irene Jay Liu about the irony of the bottling industry, the current recipient of unclaimed container deposits [estimated to be $100M-$190M per year], funneling hundreds of thousands of $$ of that money to lobby lawmakers to keep the bill, which would direct unclaimed container deposits to the state's environmental fund, from succeeding.
Follow after the fold for a few thoughts.
According to LeBrun,
On its face, the advantages of extending the nickel deposits to noncarbonated beverages like juice, iced tea and water outweigh anybody's negatives by a great deal. Foremost is that it's great social legislation, keeping pace with the greening of America and our ever-growing environmental consciousness. The history of the first bottle bill shows it has greatly reduced both litter and the waste flow into landfills. There's no reason to doubt a bigger better will have the same effect.
A quick visit to the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation website leads to a pdf entitled BEVERAGE CONTAINER DEPOSIT AND REDEMPTION STATISTICS As Reported For The Period October 1, 2004 - September 30, 2005. This document includes a table listing annual statistics from 1983-84 [the bill was passed in 1982] through 2004-05. Data are gathered from bottlers, brewers, and beverage distributors. Here are a few numbers from that table:
|year||redemp. rate||glass [tons]||alum. [tons]||plastic [tons]||total [tons]|
The percentages for plastic and glass change after 97-98 because of changes in market share for those containers as plastics take a larger share.
The original bill has been a great success, keeping millions of tons of state refuse out of landfills as well as reducing greenhouse houses required to obtain the raw materials and manufacture containers from scratch. My cursory perusal of the web in support of this diary has led me to many sites touting the virtues of bottle deposits, even mentioning the public health benefits of fewer injuries from stray glass. With today's proliferation of non-soda/non-beer beverages like iced tea, sports drinks, and bottled water, NYDEC estimates the expanded bottle bill will recycle an additional 90,000 tons of materials every year at no cost to local governments while diverting unredeemed nickels to environmental programs.
Who could be against this? How about Joe Bruno, New York Senate Majority Leader, who opposed the original 1982 bill and has stalled any vote on the expanded bill. He considers container deposits an onerous "tax" on the consumer. It's no coincidence that the bottling industry has been a big contributor to Bruno's cause. According to a 2004 study by the New York Public Interest Research Group, between January 2002 and January 2004, the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, whose purse strings are held by Senator Bruno, was the recipient of $273,717 in contributions from opponents of the revised bottle bill. Representatives of the bottling industry also held a May 2007 fundraiser,
benefitting the Republican Senate Campaign Committee's housekeeping account, a soft-money conduit that skirts the state's annual maximum of $5,000 in contributions by any one corporation for New York elections.
Ironically, it might be a Republican who helps turn this bill around. According to LeBrun, State Sen. Carl Marcellino [R-Long Island], Chairman of the Environmental Conservation Committee,
has said he favors getting a bigger, better bill passed as a stand-alone, after the budget passes.
Senator Marcellino's seat on Long Island has been marked by Democrats as vulnerable. Over the years, Marcellino has been a stalwart in pushing environmental legislation. This year more than ever, he needs a bright feather for his war bonnet when he goes out on the stump. Like getting credit for expanding this bill, for example.
I have not been able to find any information about a potential Democratic challenger to Marcellino in November; in fact, a visit to the ActBlue site still showed NY-SD-05 Democratic candidate Leslie Bielanski, who lost to Marcellino in 2006.
The citizens of New York State are in favor of an enhanced bottle bill; according to NYPIRG, more than 500 groups, businesses, and local governments support the enhanced bill. Now is the time for people who live, work, and vacation in New York State to put pressure on Senators Bruno and Marcellino. Upstate NY is getting bluer and greener by the minute, and Joe Bruno's Republican majority in the State Senate is teetering with the slimmest 32-30 lead.
Contact Sen. Joe Bruno at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Sen. Carl Marcellino at email@example.com