New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis joined local officials, students and activists last week to urge support of the "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," saying it would keep parks, roadsides and beaches cleaner, reduce landfill use and generate badly needed revenue for the state. Grannis delivered his remarks at a news conference outside Westbury's Drexel Avenue Elementary School, one of the eight districts that have agreed to participate in North Hempstead's School Recycling Program.
Since the original Bottle Bill was enacted in 1982 requiring a 5-cent deposit on beer and carbonated drinks, roadside litter has been reduced 70 percent. More than 90 billion containers and 6 million tons of glass, aluminum and plastic have been recycled, resulting in saving more than 50 million barrels of oil and eliminating 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gases - a sum equal to getting 600,000 cars off the road for one year. In his 2009-10 Executive Budget, Governor David A. Paterson has proposed expanding the law to apply to non-carbonated beverages such as water, sports drinks and iced tea.
"Even a great law needs tuning up," Grannis said. "We need to modernize the Bottle Bill to keep pace with the dramatic changes in the beverage market. When the Bottle Bill was enacted, non-carbonated drinks made up a tiny portion of overall drink sales. Today, they represent more than 25 percent of the market. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these non-deposit bottles end up in landfills and incinerators, or as litter on our roadsides, parks and beaches."
Grannis cited a 2005 study by the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency that found that while 80 percent of plastic soda bottles are recycled, just 16 percent of plastic water bottles are recovered.
"We are seeing more and more of these plastic bottles littering our streets, clogging our waterways and sullying our parks and preserves," said Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. "The Bigger Better Bottle Bill will encourage recycling and help fight all that litter and landfilling -- while raising money to help protect our environment for generations to come. We've already kept countless tons of glass and plastic out of our landfills, and reduced litter on our roadsides and in our waterways thanks to the original Bottle Bill. Now it's time to update and improve the legislation to ensure a greener New York."
"As Governor [David] Paterson has made clear, New York faces a monumental budget deficit and must make many hard choices," Grannis added. "But updating New York's 27-year-old Bottle Bill is not one of them."
"The governor truly understands that every penny counts when it comes to the environment and public monies," said North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman. "I applaud Governor Paterson and the folks at the DEC who are making a difference, one bottle at a time. Sometimes small is big and this is very big."
"The successful passage of the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill is very important to land conservation organizations like ours. And it is long overdue," said Lisa W. Ott, president of the North Shore Land Alliance. "Reducing litter in our preserves while creating a new source of funding for land conservation is a win-win for us all."
Nancy Kelley, director of the Long Island Nature Conservancy, said "Even in this difficult budget year, legislators and the governor have an opportunity to act together to create a new funding source for programs that keep New York's land, air and water clean and healthy. As lawmakers struggle this year to find revenue for critical programs, they should not pass up an opportunity like the Bigger Better Bottle Bill."
Grannis explained that the governor also has proposed changing the law to address deposits on unredeemed containers.
"Currently, nickels that customers pay on soda and beer containers but never reclaim remain with the beverage manufacturers," Grannis said. "Under the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, the industry would be required to return these funds to the state. This would amount to more than $100 million in revenue per year at a time of enormous financial difficulty."