Why advocates want to expand New York’s bottle deposit law
A renewed effort to expand New York’s bottle deposit law for the first time in years is taking shape in Albany. For advocates like Erica Smitka of the League of Women Voters, the proposal won’t just combat litter.
“We will persist until more is done to reduce litter in this state and to reduce the effects from climate change,” she said during a news conference on Monday in Albany.
Supporters of expanding New York’s bottle deposit law argue it won’t just have environmental benefits, but can boost businesses, too. But efforts to expand the measure have faltered over the years in the state Capitol amid opposition from business organizations who contended the measure is too costly and cumbersome.
Smitka is among the advocates calling for doubling the bottle deposit return from 5 cents to 10 cents in New York. They also want to expand the kind of drink containers people can return to include items like wine and sports drinks.
A new campaign backing the expansion has marshaled support from hundreds of organizations to get the expansion in the coming legislative session due to start in January. The groups are urging Gov. Kathy Hochul to include an expansion in her budget proposal.
And the push is taking place against the broader effort to combat climate change in New York. Advocates pointed to the role the manufacturing and production of material that ultimately becomes litter can play on a warming climate.
“We are already seeing the effects of climate change in our state with an increase in extreme temperatures, extreme storms and stress on our eco system,” Smitka said.
New York’s bottle deposit law was first approved in 1983, and was last updated to include water bottles in 2009. For Ryan Carson of NYPIRG, the newest expansion would reduce the reliance on curbside recycling pickup, which he says falls short.
“That’s going to incentivize recycling and make sure people bring back their cans and bottles to be recycled as opposed to putting them at curbside,” Carson said. “It’s absolutely essential we divert as much waste from curbside recycling as possible.”
And for business owners like Martin Naro, there’s a clear advantage too.
“There are many redemption centers that are going out of business and they cannot pay their employees the minimum wage that has been increased,”said Naro, the president of the Empire State Redemption Association. “There are many canners, hundreds of thousands of people who redeem bottles to supplement their income across the state. This increase in handling fee and increase in deposit would go back into their pockets and go back into the local communities.”
But the Business Council of New York State has argued against prior efforts to expand the meausre, calling it too much of a burden for supermarkets, convenience stores and beverage retailers.
“Touted as an environmental measure, this is in reality a hidden tax on New York State manufacturers, bottlers, distributors and – ultimately – consumers,” the group wrote in a memorandum of opposition. “These added costs will eventually lead to higher prices and perhaps sales disruptions as below scale operators from adjoining states bootleg cheaper products into New York – especially New York City.”