Group Calls On Governor to Modernize Bottle Bill

NEW PALTZ – Environmental, civic, and social justice organizations today called on Governor Hochul to modernize New York’s landmark recycling law, commonly known as the “Bottle Bill.” Advocates representing thirteen Southern Tier groups gathered in Peace Park beside a fifteen-foot-tall “bottle” to highlight the successes of the four-decade-old law and to urge that it be expanded as part of the state’s efforts to reduce litter, increase recycling, and boost support for municipal recycling and environmental justice programs.

First enacted in 1982, the law, officially the New York State Returnable Container Act, requires a 5-cent refundable deposit to be placed on eligible beverage containers. The law requires retailers who sell covered beverages to accept returns of empty containers for the products they sell and refund the deposits, and it requires beverage distributors to pay retailers a handling fee for the cost of collecting empty containers. The Bottle Bill was last expanded ten years ago to include water bottles.

Groups that signed the letter and participated in the rally include : NYPIRG, Sierra Club, New Paltz Climate Action Committee, and Ulster County Activists, all of whom argue that after four-decades of success, the time to increase New York’s recycling rates, provide support for municipal recycling programs, and boost redemption access in underserved communities is now.

Specifically, the groups called for two changes to modernize the Bottle Bill:
* Expand the types and number of beverage containers covered by the Bottle Bill. Other states from Maine to California include a diverse range of non-carbonated beverages, wine, and liquor to great success.

* Increase the amount of the deposit to a dime and direct a portion of the additional revenues collected by the state to ensure better compliance and enhance access to redemption entities in currently underserved communities. States like Michigan and Oregon that have increased their deposit to a dime have seen increases in recycling and container redemption rates.

Over its 40-year history, the advocates say, New York’s Bottle Bill has proven highly effective at reducing litter and increasing recycling rates. In 2020, New York’s redemption rate was at 64%. The Bottle Bill reduces roadside container litter by 70%, and in 2020, 5.5 billion containers were recycled in the state. However, advocates say, it’s time to modernize the law for a new era.

Groups Urge Gov. Hochul To Support “Bigger Better Bottle Bill,”
“A lot has changed in the 40 years since the passage of the Bottle Bill. While we may listen to hip-hop instead of disco and carry phones in our pockets, one thing that hasn’t changed is the need for a recycling program that works for all New Yorkers. We think it’s time for the Bottle Law of the late 20th Century to join the 21st. Today we call upon Governor Hochul to modernize the Bottle bill by expanding the containers covered under the law to include wine, liquor, and non-carbonated beverage containers; increase the bottle deposit; and expand access to recycling redemption centers to the underserved areas that need them most,” said Nyah Estevez, Environmental Project Leader for NYPIRG and SUNY New Paltz student.

“Increasing the deposit to 10 cents would be very beneficial for New Paltz Bottles 4 Change because it would double the amount we’d be able to donate to organizations that promote environmental health and sustainability,” said Lucy Castellano, New Paltz Bottles 4 Change. New Paltz Bottles 4 change is a student-run bottle pickup service that collects bottles and cans with exchange labels from the community and uses the proceeds to donate to environmentally-conscious organizations.

“New York’s bottle redemption laws have for the past forty years facilitated the recycling of billions of beverage containers that once filled our landfills and littered our streets, parks and waterways,” said Roger Downs, Conservation Director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “But the value of a nickel isn’t what it used to be, and the tastes and habits of New Yorkers have expanded the types of single use containers not covered by the current law. This has left municipal recycling centers with increasing debt at a time when waste glass and plastic markets are depressed. It’s time for the legislature and Governor Hochul to make this landmark recycling law effective again by funding more local zero waste programs and comprehensively covering all beverage containers with right-sized redemption fees.”

“New York has been a leader, taking steps to fight the climate crisis. But, we need to take more aggressive steps in every realm, if we truly want to curb emissions. Enhancing NY’s Bottle Bill needs to be a priority for the Hochul administration, so that our actions tangibly address the full spectrum of climate issues. We don’t have time to cherry pick what to focus on- the climate emergency won’t wait”.- Jess Mullen, Chairperson, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition

“Plastics have become one of the biggest problems we now face. It is time that we all look at our choices and do what we can to reduce the amount of plastic in our waste stream, and this bill is a step towards that goal.” – Amy Kletter, Ulster Activists (U-ACT)

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