Modernize New York’s Returnable Container Act (“Bottle Bill”)

New York Governor

Advocates across the state are pushing for a modernization of New York State’s 40-year-old Bottle Deposit Law. The advocates’ proposal would increase the deposit from a nickel to a dime and would expand the types of containers to sports drinks, iced teas, juices, wine, and liquor that New Yorkers consume each year. Dairy products and infant formulas containers would be exempt. The law has been extremely successful in boosting the state’s – and city’s – recycling rates and has reduced litter. Expansion would bring immediate and long-lasting financial and environmental benefits to the city’s solid waste programs. It is essential that the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste support efforts to improve the state’s Bottle Bill and call upon our elected officials in Albany to act now.

Enacted in 1983, the New York State Returnable Container Act (“the Law”), commonly known as “the Bottle Bill,” requires a 5-cent refundable deposit to be placed on eligible beverage containers. Upon passage, the Bottle Law covered only beer and soda sold in New York. (It was subsequently expanded to cover wine coolers and water bottles.) The Law requires retailers who sell covered beverages to accept returns of empty containers for the products they sell and to refund the deposits. The Law also requires beverage distributors to compensate retailers for the cost of collecting and recycling empty containers by paying them a small handling fee per container.

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New York, NY

To: New York Governor
From: [Your Name]

We, the undersigned New York residents, urge you to include an expanded and modernized Bottle Bill in your proposed FY 2023-2024 Executive Budget.

In your 2022 State of the State address, you outlined that New York must move to an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) approach to recycling to combat the state’s solid waste crisis. The state's solid waste crisis is at a critical level and recycling, reuse and reduction rates must improve or else landfills will fill past capacity and incinerators will continue to spew toxic waste by burning garbage, often into environmental justice communities.

However, your plan failed to expand and modernize the state’s incredibly successful Bottle Deposit law, also known as the “Bottle Bill.” Indeed, the Bottle Bill is New York State’s pioneering and most successful Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy. Updating the Bottle Bill will have a measurable and immediate impact on New York’s solid waste problem.

It's time to update the law to 1) include popular non-carbonated beverages, wine, spirits, and hard cider, and 2) increase the redeemable deposit value from a nickel to a dime to increase the redemption and recycling rate. Including more types of containers – already being done in other states – will reduce serious burdens on municipal waste and recycling programs. Further, the impact of the nickel deposit that was approved in 1982 has eroded over time. A mere inflation update would make that deposit nearly fifteen cents.

Policies that reduce the amount of solid waste through recycling, reduction, and reuse, and prioritizing the reduction of plastics used in products and packaging, are critical components of a responsible and environmentally beneficial solid waste policy.

Modernization of the Bottle Bill will improve litter control, increase container recycling rates up to 90%, and support local businesses struggling against inflation. In 2022, Assemblymember Steve Englebright and Senator Rachel May introduced the “Bigger Better Bottle Bill,” (S. 9164/ A. 10184) to modernize the state’s Bottle Deposit Law.

We, the undersigned New Yorkers, urge you to include an expanded and modernized Bottle Bill in your proposed FY 2023-2024 Executive Budget.