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Increase your returns: Tuesday’s Bottle Bill rally.

photo:Joe Putrock

The Five-Cent Solution

Environmentalists rally to highlight the millions of bottles falling through the loopholes of the Bottle Bill


On 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 and passersby.

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.”

“And,” 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.”

—Nolan Konkoski


What a Week

Did 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 Stadium

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.



Not Going Away

photo:John Whipple

Ralph 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.

 

 

 


Overheard

Overheard:

“There’s 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.”

—local pharmacist on the phone with a customer who was apparently trying to offer “something extra” to get a prescription filled without his doctor’s approval.



Loose Ends

New 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 in 2007.



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