EDITORIAL: Bills will take more waste out of the environment

State Department of Environmental Conservation.
State Department of Environmental Conservation.
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New York state lawmakers have the rare opportunity, before they leave Albany this week, to make a significant and long-lasting imprint on the environment — by passing two bills to help reduce the amount of waste littering our land and waterways.

The bills are reasonable, manageable, popular with the citizens, and will actually accomplish what they intended to do.

One is the Bigger Better Bottle Bill (A6353/S0237). It’s exactly what the title says it is. A better version of the bottle bill passed over 40 years ago that resulted in a major reduction in environmental trash in New York due to bottles and cans.

By many estimates, the original bottle bill that took effect on July 1, 1983, has reduced roadside trash by 70% to 80% and gotten more than 11 million tons of plastic, metal and glass out of the environment. In addition, the recycling of those bottles and cans has resulted in a reduction of millions of tons of waste taking up space in landfills and has reduced greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 3 million cars off the road for a year, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

But the bill has only been modified slightly in the past four decades, and the deposit remains at 1983’s 5-cent level.

According to Siena poll conducted earlier this year, about 71% of New Yorkers support expanding deposit-returns to include “all types of beverage containers.”

The new Bigger Better Bottle Bill would expand the existing law to include containers such as those for tea, wine, liquor and mini-bottles. It also would raise the deposit to 10 cents. That will encourage even more people to redeem their containers, raising the state’s redemption rate from 64% to an estimated 90%. It also will support redemption centers with an increase in handling fees, create more than 4,000 new jobs, and help thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers who collect and return cans and bottles to survive.

The other bill is the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Act (A5322/S4246). It largely addresses single-use plastic that’s difficult or impossible to recycle by requiring manufacturers to establish plans to reduce their packaging by half over 12 years and sets standards for production and recycling of these plastics. That includes a ban on certain toxic chemicals that are now used in packaging.

This bill puts the onus more on the producers and manufacturers of the single-use plastic and less on the consumers.

As with any new legislation, there will be those who say it’s too much of a burden on businesses or that the cost to consumers will be too much. But other states have raised their deposits from a nickel to a dime and seen even more participation.

As the original bottle bill proved, New Yorkers will take the initiative, they’ll pay the deposit, and businesses will find a way to meet the requirements for collection and processing.

Lawmakers have this week to make a big difference in supporting a clean environment by passing this legislation.

Putting it off another year will just result in more of these materials unnecessarily finding their way into our land and water.

Why wait?

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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