On June 1st the Bigger Better Bottle Bill was supposed to go into effect. Instead the bill’s implementation was delayed by a federal judge. Considered a landmark environmental victory, the legislation marked the first comprehensive update of New York’s 5-cent deposit law (known as the Bottle Bill) since it was created in 1982, and caps a more then seven-year campaign by a widespread coalition of environmental organizations.
The judge’s ruling blocked the collecting five-cent deposits on bottles of water until April 2010. The law would also have allowed the state to begin collecting 80 percent of unclaimed deposits, money which bottlers had been keeping for themselves. According to the Associated Press the ruling may cost the state “an estimated $115 million in unclaimed deposits on bottles for water and other beverages that it was to start collecting this year.” Judge Griesa also declared that a requirement for New York-specific bar coding on labels violates the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause.
The following press release was issued by a coalition of environmental groups:
Groups Call on State Leaders to Fix Law, Protect Environment & Restore State Budget
Today should have been a historic day for New York’s environment. After a long campaign involving hundreds of groups, businesses, and recycling advocates, a significant victory was achieved when the Governor and the State Legislature approved the Bigger Better Bottle Bill this spring. The expansion to water bottles and other key elements of the new law were scheduled to go into effect today.
But in a surprising decision, late last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Griesa delayed implementation of all the new updates to the bottle law until April 1, 2010. This ruling went well beyond what Nestle and the other water bottling companies were seeking in their lawsuit. It not only delays the expansion to water bottles, but extends to all other parts of the new law, including the transfer of 80% of the unclaimed deposits to the state and the 1.5 cent handling fee increase for stores and redemption centers.
As a result, the state will lose at least $115 million this year in revenue from the unclaimed deposits, which will throw New York’s recently enacted state budget out of balance. More than two billion water bottles will end up in the waste stream rather than recycled. And many small redemption centers who were counting on the increased handling fee will be forced to shut down and lay off workers.
How did this happen? While many businesses raised concerns that the new law’s labeling requirements were impossible to meet by June 1st, the Governor, Assembly and Senate failed to come to an agreement on amending the law in a timely fashion. As a result, the decision to delay the bottle bill was made in court. Although no one could have predicted the judge’s decision, this matter need not ever have reached the courtroom.
On Earth Day, almost 50 environmental groups presented awards to Governor David Paterson, Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for enacting this important environmental law. Now, we urge them to do everything in their power to bring the bottle bill back on track as soon as possible so that our environment, our businesses, and our budget will not suffer from this judicial setback.
Members of the Bigger Better Bottle Bill Coaliton include:
Adirondack Council • Adirondack Mountain Club • American Farmland Trust • American Littoral Society • Bottle and Can Redemption Association • Buffalo Audubon Society • Citizens Campaign for the Environment • Citizens’ Environmental Coalition • Environmental Advocates of New York • Group for the East End • Hudson River Sloop Clearwater • Jamesville Positive Action Committee • Land Trust Alliance • League of Women Voters of New York State • Long Island Environmental Voters Forum • Long Island Pine Barrens Society • Natural Resources Defense Council • New York-New Jersey Trail Conference • New York League of Conservation Voters • New York Redeemers Coalition • New York Public Interest Research Group • New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse and Recycling • New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness • North Shore Land Alliance • Orange Environment • People’s Environmental Network of New York • Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter • Sure We Can • Surfrider Foundation • Upper West Side Recycling • Wildlife Conservation Society