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Bottle Bill Expansion Proposed In State Assembly

David Nicastro is pictured sorting cans at Southside Redemption Center in Jamestown. P-J photo by Katrina Fuller

At least one Democrat in the state Assembly wants to see a 10 cent refund on recycled bottles while expanding the bottles that receive a refund.

Rep. Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, recently introduced legislation (A.8668) to expand the list of redeemable beverage containers in the state Returnable Container Act to include bottles containing liquor, ciders, teas, juices, sports drinks, and most milk products while increasing the refund value to 10 cents and allocating additional state revenue from unredeemed beverages to the state Environmental Protection Fund and bottle redemption centers.

Cahill pointed to data compiled by the state Department of Environmental Conservation showing the average bottle redemption rate between 1982 and 2000 was 75%. From 2000 to 2020, this average dropped to 65%. Cahill also pointed to a study by the state Pollution Prevention Institute that showed a correlation between higher deposit amounts on containers and higher redemption rates. Michigan, which has a 10 cent deposit refund, had an 89% redemption rate in 2019.

“Many features of the New York State Returnable Container Act are antiquated and need to be updated for the ‘Bottle Bill’ to remain effective,” Cahill wrote in his legislative justification. “The deposit refund of 5 cents per container, which has not been increased since the passage of the original bill in 1982, has been significantly depreciated over four decades of inflation. As a result, the incentive to redeem eligible bottles has waned.”

Cahill also wants to see more materials kept out of landfills, where they emit methane.

“Depressed secondary markets for plastics often means recycling these containers is cost-prohibitive, leaving landfilling as the economical, yet environmentally harmful, alternative,” Cahill wrote. “Including more beverage containers made of glass and plastic in the bottle bill will ensure that they are recycled in a safe and sustainable manner.”

Dave Leathers, BPU general manager, told The Post-Journal in November 2020 that picking up glass is an expense to the solid waste division because it costs money to pick up the glass recycling and then transport it for disposal. The second reason is that even with a spread out pickup time, which is usually 8 to 10 weeks apart, customer participation was low. In 2019, the New York Association of Counties called for the state to place a deposit on glass containers through a glass-only Bottle Bill expansion to increase glass recycling while cutting municipal recycling costs.

“Counties oppose adding additional plastic and aluminum containers to the Bottle Bill, as this would take critical revenue away from local recycling programs. Adding sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages, and ready-to-drink coffees and teas to the Bottle Bill would place an undue burden on municipal recyclers by removing as much as 50% of plastic and aluminum containers from the recycling stream. This would result in an additional loss of revenue for solid waste programs at a time when global market changes have already made it difficult for local entities to continue providing these environmentally-beneficial programs,” NYSAC wrote in its testimony to a joint legislative committee on environmental conservation.

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