your returns: Tuesday’s Bottle Bill rally.
rally to highlight the millions of bottles falling through
the loopholes of the Bottle Bill
Tuesday (April 19) at noon, volunteers circled the Capitol
building in downtown Albany as part of an Earth Day protest.
Their goal was to increase support for pending legislation
titled the “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,” and their means were
eccentric to say the least.
Claiming inspiration from Christo’s popular Gates exhibit
in New York City’s Central Park earlier this year, organizers
strung together 2,400 plastic bottles with recyclable plastic
police tape and “surrounded” the Capitol building for 15 minutes.
(The number of bottles represented the number of nondeposit
bottles New York State residents consume in 30 seconds.) The
demonstration was quiet—in spite of the efforts of one man
with a megaphone to lead a rousing “Hey, hey, ho, ho, the
Bottle Bill has got to grow” chant—and not exactly visually
stunning, as 2,400 small plastic bottles are stretched pretty
thin when trying to encircle the massive Capitol. But the
event, wisely held at one of the downtown area’s peak times,
still garnered a great deal of interest, from both media outlets
The original Bottle Bill was passed in 1982. It is responsible
for the five-cent deposit on all beer and carbonated-beverage
containers. And while the bill has been lauded as one of the
most successful pieces of recycling and litter-prevention
legislation, many believe it is in need of an update. The
beverage industry has grown over the last two decades, with
an increased focus on noncarbonated beverages. Bottled water,
juices, sports drinks and iced teas have all grown considerably
in popularity, and it is estimated that these nondeposit containers
make up more than 20 percent of New York state’s beverage
market. The “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill” seeks to update the
legislation and add a deposit to these containers as well.
In addition to increasing the range of the bottle deposit,
proponents of the new bill are also pushing for unredeemed
deposits to be returned to the state. According to Jeff Edwards,
legislative committee chair for the New York State Association
for Reduction, Reuse & Recycling, the current system operates
contrary to common sense. As it stands now, when consumers
pay deposits, a store then sends those deposits to the manufacturer.
When redeemed, a manufacturer then pays the store seven cents
in exchange for the bottle and handling fees. However, if
bottles are not returned—and millions are not—the manufacturers
hold onto the extra money and garner huge profits. The pending
bill would force any unredeemed deposits to go to the state
for use in environmental programs. This amounts to a potential
$179 million in revenue for the state.
The bill has been opposed by beverage wholesalers, who say
they use the deposits they keep to pay for the transportation
of returned bottles, and by convenience store owners, who
say they have nowhere to store bottles returned for deposits
[“A Nickel for Your Water Bottle?” Newsfront, Feb. 26, 2004].
The original Bottle Bill, according to NYSAR literature, is
responsible for the return of more than 80 million bottles
and cans made of more than five million tons of plastic, glass
and metal. Litter has been reduced by an estimated 30 percent
and greenhouse emissions by 4 million tons.
NYSAR president Sharon Fisher is confident the new bill will
pass. “Under the original bottle bill, litter has obviously
decreased. But now water and juice bottles are polluting our
cities and rivers, and there is no protection. The ‘Bigger,
Better Bottle Bill’ will offer that protection and more.”
Another cultural change that has resulted since the bottle
deposit’s inception is the amount of people who literally
rely on the bottles and cans to survive. The homeless have
almost certainly taken greatest advantage of the deposit system
and are responsible for much of its success. To increase the
number of bottles covered under the bill would be directly
beneficial to the homeless community.
According to Greg, a homeless man returning bottles at the
Westgate Plaza Price Chopper, “They should let us return all
the bottles, not just soda and beer. . . . I’d probably make
twice as much money.”
added a friend of Greg—who doesn’t give his name out to strangers—“we
probably throw out a hundred of those water bottles every
day here. They’re not getting recycled.”
When told of the pending bill, both agreed that it makes sense.
“Sounds like everybody wins,” said Greg. “Even the politicians.”
I Say That Out Loud?
John Fund of the Wall Street Journal’s
editorial page, one of several people with Republican
connections on the supposedly nonpartisan Baker-Carter
Election Commission (some of whom hastily created
“nonpartisan” “voting rights” organizations to
get there), let slip a comment during the commission’s
first meeting that voting-rights activists, including
Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), are saying represents
the true colors of the right-wing approach to
voting reform. Fund suggested precinct workers
be allowed to reject provisional ballots of people
who don’t “look as if they belong in the neighborhood.”
Care to define “belong,” Mr. Fund?
Must Be Doing Something Right
Al-Jazeera, the network owned by the government
of Qatar, had its office in Tehran shut down by
Iranian authorities Tuesday for failing to “respect
Iran’s national integrity and security” because
it reported on ethnic unrest in southern Iran.
Already under attack by the United States, Al-Jazeera
has run into trouble with several other governments,
including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait,
and Iraq, reported the Guardian, “for its
policy of airing opposition views and criticisms.”
Welcome to Oh-Shit-Our-Recruitment-Is-Down
You’ve heard of Enron Field and PacBell Stadium.
Well now the Washington Nationals are going to
have National Guard Field at RFK Stadium. And
$6 million from the National Guard for the privilege.
Lack of body armor? No exit strategy? Soliders
on food stamps or having their houses repossessed?
Nothing a little profile raising can’t fix.
Welcome to Recruiters-Only-Semi-Welcome High
School district officials in Fairport, outside
of Rochester, have a different interpretation
of the No Child Left Behind Act than the Pentagon
does. Fairport will give student records to recruiters
only if parents responding to a notification letter
explicitly give their their approval, reports
City Paper. The Pentagon expects to get
the info unless a parent requests otherwise. Disagreements
of this sort with other school districts have
jeopardized their federal funding; Fairport officials
say they’re planning to stand firm.
Nader signs posters and books at the rally he and rock legend
Patti Smith held at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Albany on Saturday
(April 16). Nader challenged the 150 people in attendance
to get active, and become “Congress watchers” in order to
get troops out of Iraq. He is touring the country with Smith
to pay off the legal battles he fought to get on the ballot
in many states in last year’s presidential election.
a lot more to this than money. If it’s money I
wanted I could take a bottle of valium and sell
pills on the street corner. That’s not what I
got a license for.”
pharmacist on the phone with a customer who was
apparently trying to offer “something extra” to
get a prescription filled without his doctor’s
York state resoundingly rejected the St. Lawrence
Cement Plant proposal [“Some Cranberry Sauce
With Your Cement Plant?” Newsfront, Dec. 2, 2002]
for the city of Hudson on Tuesday, saying it would
have a negative effect on the shoreline and stymie
economic recovery along the Hudson River. The
Hudson City Council also voted 7-3 to reject the
proposal on Tuesday. St. Lawrence could appeal,
but it appears to face an uphill battle if it
does so. . . . The oddly named Bankruptcy Abuse
Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of
2005 [“Reforming Bankruptcy, One Screwed Family
at a Time,” Looking Up, April 7] passed the House
of Representatives last Thursday (April 14) by
a 302-126 margin. The measure, which will drastically
limit who qualifies for bankruptcy relief, had
already passed the Senate, and President George
W. Bush has indicated he will sign it into law.
Not willing to let the defeat pass quietly, MoveOn
PAC has collected $572,000 worth of pledges for
radio ads targeting key representatives who voted
for the bill. . . . On April 13, Y & S Homes
was denied a zoning variance to turn the Tyler
Arms veterans’ home on Madison Avenue in Albany
into graduate student housing [“Movin’ On,” Newsfront,
April 14], leaving the status of the home (which
is losing money monthly) and its remaining tenants
in limbo. . . . Trying to balance out the $11
million of state and federal funds devoted to
“abstinence-only” education in New York state
[“Abstaining From the Truth,” Newsfront, Dec.
9, 2004], members of Concerned Clergy for Choice
met with New York legislators on April 12 to advocate
for the Healthy Teens Act (A. 6619). The
act would create a grant program to support comprehensive,
age-appropriate, medically accurate sex-education
programs. . . . Besicorp-Empire Development
Co. [“Rensselaer Surrenders,” Newsfront, May
27, 2004] has received all of its state permits
to open a newsprint-recycling and cogeneration
facility and a natural-gas-fueled power station
on the waterfront in the city of Rensselaer. Construction
is expected to start this summer, and operations