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by Tracy Will
Mon, Jun 8th 2009 08:00 am

The latest news on New York State's Bigger Better Bottle Bill states that the legislation has been put on hold until April 1st, 2010.  This follows an injunction to delay enforcement of the law filed by US District Judge Thomas P. Griesa on May 27th, as a result of the lawsuit filed by the International Bottled Water Association et al. 

Water bottlers were arguing that there was not enough time allotted for them to comply with the labeling requirements for the law without incurring a significant expense, but the legal issue that caused the delay was the new requirement for New York State (NYS) specific bar codes on all beverage containers to ensure that those being returned for a deposit in NYS were actually sold in NYS.  The Associated Press reported that Judge Griesa called this unconstitutional because it violated the US Constitution's commerce clause.

In the final order filed by Judge Griesa, lawmakers were prohibited from enacting that portion of the law altogether, and prohibited from enacting and/or enforcing all other portions of the law until April 1st, 2010, to give those affected sufficient time to comply with the law.  But the Bigger Better Bottle Bill wasn't just about the proper labeling of water bottles for deposit collection and redemption, and delaying all aspects of the law for nearly a year poses serious financial consequences for the state and redemption centers.

Aside from the addition of a mandatory deposit on water bottles and the labeling requirements necessary to do so, exclusive of NYS specific labeling, there are two other main components of the bill.  It also calls for 80 percent of unclaimed deposits, an estimated $115 million including water bottles, to go to the state instead of the beverage companies, helping to close the state's budget gap, funding environmental programs.  In addition, the law gave redemption centers their first raise in 11 years, increasing the handling fee from 2 cents to 3.5 cents per container, a raise that many centers statewide were counting on to stay in business.

With the current state of the economy, additional state funding and maintaining and increasing green jobs is very important, but this is also very important environmental legislation that has been in the works since 2002.  Of course there are the very relevant issues of overburdened landfills, litter, pollution, and countless other environmental casualties associated with the lifecycle of plastic water bottles, but the one that will command everyone's attention is energy.  According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) the vast majority of water bottles (96 percent in 2005) are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET).  PET is not only made from fossil fuels (resins are typically derived from petroleum and natural gas), but it is also highly energy intensive to manufacture and mold into plastic bottles.  In December 2007, the Pacific Institute released their case study on bottled water and energy stating that the energy required to produce the one million metric tons of PET bottles for bottled water alone in the US was equivalent to nearly 17 million barrels of oil, or "enough energy to fuel one million American cars for one year."

The American Chemistry Council states that approximately 3.8 barrels of oil are saved for every ton of plastic bottles that are recycled, or approximately 3.4 barrels for every metric ton recycled.  If all one million metric tons of plastic water bottles sold in 2006 were recycled, that would equal a savings of 3.4 million barrels of oil.  The CRI estimates that 2.4 billion plastic water bottles were sold in NYS alone in 2005; if all 2.4 billion bottles, approximately 108,000 metric tons, were recycled, it would save about 367,200 barrels of oil in NYS alone.

But what do these figures have to do with the bottle bill?  According to the CRI, states with bottle bills, or deposit states, have a recycling rate two to three times higher than states that don't.  In addition, only three of the 11 deposit states include deposits on containers for non-carbonated beverages, the consequences of which are evident in the fact that the average recycling rates for carbonated beverage containers are twice as high as those for non-carbonated beverages in those states.  CRI studies have also found that the market share for sales of non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverages has "increased from nearly zero twenty years ago to 27% of the beverage market today," and bottled water alone accounts for more than 60 percent of that market share. 

Expanding the bottle bill in NYS to include bottled water will likely double, or even triple, the recycling rate of these bottles in the state, which account for nearly one-fifth of the beverage market share nationwide.  If the recycling rate for PET water bottles increased to 76 percent, the average rate for carbonated beverage container recycling in the 11 deposit states, NYS could save 280,000 barrels of oil or more annually.  In addition to the energy and environmental benefits of the increased recycling, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill calls for an estimated $115 million in unclaimed deposits to go to the state, closing the budget gap and funding environmental programs.  Finally, it will give redemption centers a much needed raise and increase their demand, preserving and adding jobs to NYS's green job market.  It's a win-win-win situation!


Information Sources:


American Chemistry Council


Container Recycling Institute (CRI)


News Articles


New York State


Pacific Institute

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We capture the water from the basement dehumidifier for reuse as part of the initial fill of laundry water. In the grand scheme of things, this is about 4 gallons per week in the summer, but it is better than sending it down the drain. >> More