New York State lawmakers convened Monday to discuss potential updates to the 1983 Returnable Container Act, widely recognized as the “Bottle Bill.” Aimed at minimizing litter and promoting recycling, the act has historically mandated a 5-cent deposit on select beverage containers, including carbonated drinks, beer, and some wine products. Advocates now propose expanding the scope to include wine and liquor bottles, as well as iced tea, Gatorade, and milk containers. Alongside this, they’re suggesting an increase in the deposit price to 10 cents to account for inflation and to deter more waste from entering landfills.
The “Bottle Bill” has been pivotal in environmental conservation since its initiation, with the state’s DEC Office of Remediation and Materials Management crediting it for a 70% average reduction in roadside litter from containers and the diversion of over 10 million tons of containers from the waste stream. The act has evolved over the years, with the introduction of automated bottle and can machines in many establishments, minimizing labor concerns and increasing efficiency. Today, businesses selling the designated products are obligated to refund consumers their deposits upon the return of empty containers. Notably, TOMRA, a key player in the returnables processing industry, liaises with producers like Coke and Pepsi, facilitating recycling while charging them fees for their role in the process.
State Assemblyman Brian Manktelow expressed support for increasing recycling efforts and the proposed 10-cent fee during last week’s meetings. However, he stressed the need to address the broader recycling system’s shortcomings before making changes to the Bottle Bill. Highlighting that certain recycled items still end up in landfills due to the lack of a market for them, Manktelow emphasized the importance of a comprehensive strategy as the 2024 legislative session beckons.
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