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Advocates want New York to expand its “bottle bill” next session

Bottle Bill 40 Coalition Campaign Coordinator Ryan Thoresen Carson joined advocates at the capitol for the release of a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, urging the Democrat to include a proposal in the upcoming state budget to double bottle deposits from 5 to 10 cents.
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Video provided by the BB40 Coaltion Campaign
Bottle Bill 40 Coalition Campaign Coordinator Ryan Thoresen Carson joined advocates at the capitol for the release of a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, urging the Democrat to include a proposal in the upcoming state budget to double bottle deposits from 5 to 10 cents.

A coalition of over 300 organizations and businesses is calling for an updated bottle bill in New York.

New York's Bottle Bill turns 40 next year. Bottle Bill 40 Coalition Campaign Coordinator Ryan Thoresen Carson joined advocates at the capitol for the release of a letter to Governor Kathy Hochul, urging the Democrat to include a proposal in the upcoming state budget to double bottle deposits from 5 to 10 cents. Carson says with increasing amounts of plastic and container waste, the redemption program should be updated.

"That's going to incentivize recycling and make sure that people bring their bottles and their cans back to be recycled, as opposed to putting them in curbside," said Carson. "It's absolutely essential that we divert as much waste from curbside recycling as possible. New York state is in a major, major waste issue, we are in an absolute crisis right now. And we need to be diverting as much waste as possible from our curbside recycling, and this will incentivize people to do so. So by doing, by passing the New York State bottle bill, we're not just addressing that deposit issue. We're also looking at the types of bottles and cans that are actually in that system. So one thing that we'd be expanding to is wine and liquor bottles. These are a major, major issue for our recycling systems here across the state. When glass breaks, it makes all the things around it in that bale very, very hard to recycle. That depresses our entire state's recycling rate, which is already pretty abysmal if we're being honest here. So we're gonna be adding wine, liquor and hard cider into the system, as well as those very small pesky containers like 'nips', there's very small plastic alcohol containers that are the most littered thing that you see in New York."

The law was last updated in 2009 to include water bottles. Proponents of modernizing the measure contend a 10-cent return will create new jobs and benefit redemption centers. Carson tells WAMC a fresh update will also be a boon to people who pick up empty containers off the streets, too.

"Right now what we do in New York is define what is recyclable by the beverage inside of it, as opposed to, you know, the container itself," said Carson. "So we want to modernize and adjust that. And so this letter today was really calling on the governor to put this in their executive budget to get this done next year."

Ryan Castalia, executive director of the non-profit Sure We Can redemption center, says the update provides an opportunity for New York to take further combat the waste crisis, the climate crisis and make strides forward in the name of environmental justice. He hails the existing bottle bill as "the most effective recycling system we have in the state."

"A huge part of that has been decades of arduous, laborious, inadequately remunerated work on behalf of 'canners,' thousands of informal recyclers, whose collecting allows the bottle bill to function as effectively as it does," Castalia said. "That translates into right now a 64% return rate for the materials the Bottle Bill covers the hundreds of thousands of tons of plastic metal and glass diverted from our waste stream annually, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars distributed into economically marginalized and environmentally overburdened communities, environmental justice communities. The bottle bill is this incredibly efficient way to address all these problems. And by expanding it by raising deposits and five to 10 cents by including more categories and containers within it, we're going to see that effectiveness increase dramatically."

A spokesperson for the Governor says "...Hochul is committed to protecting our environment and fighting climate change, and will review all budget requests."

Syracuse-area Democratic state Senator Rachel May responded to a request for comment by email, saying she’s “hopeful that Governor Hochul will include the Bigger Better Bottle Bill in the budget, but if not, I think we will have a lot of support for it in the legislature to pass it.”

Here's a look at NYS Assembly Bill A8668A.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.