The ‘Bigger, Better Bottle Bill’ is now being debated at the state level. Now in committee in the State Senate, it proposes increasing the bottle-return deposit from its current 5 cents to 10 cents. It would add a deposit to bottles and cans of wine, liquor, distilled spirit coolers, and cider and wine products, as well as water with added sugar, non-carbonated soft drinks, non-carbonated fruit and vegetable juices containing less than 100% fruit or vegetable juice, coffee and tea beverages, and carbonated fruit beverages.
It would also increase the handling fee to 6 cents for processing the return. Now, beverage distributors pay 3.5 cents for each beverage container returned at a store, restaurant or bottle redemption center.
New York’s bottle bill, among the first 10 nationwide, was approved in 1982
If the new bill is passed, the law would begin phasing in next year.
Beverage container deposit laws, or bottle bills, are designed to reduce litter and capture bottles, cans, and other containers for recycling. Ten states and Guam have a deposit-refund system for beverage containers.
Football fans tuning into the Super Bowl this year may have caught a high-profile ad from American Beverage, which invited viewers to recycle their bottles so they could be turned into 100% recycled containers.
The message in the ad had a seemingly simple request: “Please help us to get every bottle back.” The upbeat tone of the ad, in which the trade group represents Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other soft drink companies, belied the decades-old policy fight over the nation’s bottle bills.
Recycling industry experts, the beverage industry, waste haulers, and redemption center operators have long navigated high tensions and competing interests to address the issues plaguing these state systems meant to do just that – “get every bottle back.”
Advocates of the bill said it would encourage people to recycle and encourage the recycling of more containers – thus keeping more glass and plastic out of landfills. It would also reduce litter and save municipalities money, they said.
Those who oppose the bill said it would create nightmare hardships for retailers, liquor stores, restaurants and manufacturers of the affected beverages.
Stores that don’t currently accept bottle returns would have to find space and accommodations for empty bottles. That would be a major undertaking for places such as liquor stores, causing them to build out new space, reduce space now used for inventory, or add exterior space on their properties. Businesses that do take returns would have to find extra space for the added bottles and cans that would come in.
Shoppers will see higher beverage prices if the changes go through, businesses said.
But consumers have reacted favorably to the bill, according to a statewide poll for the New York Public Interest Research Group by Siena College Research Institute.
The majority of those polled favored the expansion, with 71% in favor of adding new types of beverages to the law and 51% in favor of hiking the deposit fee to 10 cents.
Ryan Thoresen Carson, Campaign Coordinator for NYPRIGs environmental campaign said in 2021 the bottle deposit return rate was at 71%, “But if you look at states, like Michigan, Oregon, states they have a 10 cent deposit. They are consistently in the high 80s, low 90s for bottle return rate.”
Government Affairs for the Business Council of NYS opposes the ‘Bigger, Better Bottle Bill’. Citing up-front costs to businesses expansions to cover new beverages include the capital costs to calibrate redemption centers, to purchase and install new reverse vending machines, and to acquire all necessary equipment. There are also upfront administrative costs, primarily associated with establishing the necessary capacity to run the program.