County leaders asking lawmakers to revise Gov’s “Bottle Bill”

Gazette file photo

County executives and municipal recycling managers are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature to make modifications to the proposed expansion of the Returnable Container Act, otherwise known as the “bottle bill,” which would add a deposit to sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages, and ready-to-drink coffees and teas.

The New York State Association of Counties acknowledges that the bill is well-intentioned, but they fear it will harm recycling programs that are already being threatened by volatility in the recycling market. For example, In 2017 and 2018, China implemented policy changes that resulted in a 90 reduction in the value of paper and a 63 percent loss in value of the traditional recycling stream.

The governor’s proposal would remove as much as half of valuable plastic and aluminum containers from the recycling stream, resulting in an additional loss of revenue for local solid waste programs.

NYSAC is urging the governor and Legislature to modify the governor’s expansion of the bottle bill to include only glass containers.

“Solid waste entities have put forth a lot of time, effort, and money to carry out state and local recycling initiatives,” said Stephen McElwain, president of the New York State Association for Solid Waste Management. “We oppose the governor’s proposal to take value out of the curbside bin at a time when global market changes have made it difficult for local entities to continue providing these environmentally-beneficial programs.”

Instead of adding more plastic and aluminum bottles to the bottle bill, counties are asking lawmakers to add a deposit to additional glass beverage containers, including wine and liquor bottles, hard cider bottles, and non-alcoholic glass beverage containers.

Glass causes problems in the municipal recycling stream because it breaks and contaminates other recyclables. Placing a deposit on these containers would increase glass recycling, reduce municipal recycling costs, and reduce glass contamination in the curbside bin.

“Recycling glass with the proven bottle deposit program is the best way to ensure glass is clean enough to become bottles again,” said Andrew Radin, director of waste reduction and recycling for the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency. “More glass redeemed for deposits increases cleaner recycling and provides much needed relief for local recycling programs.”