Expanded Bottle Bill deposit program a success

Six months after The Bigger Better Bottle Bill expanded New York’s beverage deposit and refund program, a survey has shown that retailers are largely complying with the legislation.

The bill, which took effect October 31, 2009, marked the first comprehensive revision to the state’s five-cent deposit law since it was enacted in 1982.

The initial legislation stipulated that vendors charge a nickel deposit for certain bottled and canned beverages – mostly carbonated items like beer and soft drinks – and return the deposits in exchange for empty containers.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) praised the original legislation for its environmental benefits, such as reducing roadside litter and greenhouse gases. But, since the original Bottle Bill became law, non-carbonated beverages have taken over a sizable share of the drink market. They now make up 23 percent, according to the DEC.

As a result, the 27-year-old Bottle Bill was updated to include the 2.5 billion bottles of water and flavored or nutritionally enhanced, sugar-free water consumed by New Yorkers each year, according to the DEC. The revisions also included a requirement that all retailers conspicuously post a “Bottle Bill of Rights” informing consumers of the nature of the law.

According to a study produced by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) – a research and advocacy non-profit focused largely on environmental preservation – 93 percent of surveyed stores are lawfully redeeming deposits on bottled water.

The survey, conducted by volunteers in 84 stores from Buffalo to Long Island between February 4 and March 2, also found that 75 percent of retailers were selling bottles properly tagged with “New York 5-cent” labels. An additional 20 percent of stores were “mostly” in compliance.

However, just over a quarter of stores surveyed had posted the Bottle Bill of Rights, detailing their customers’ right to deposit redemption.

Joe Sterling, NYPIRG’s environmental campaign organizer, said that “more clearly needs to be done to ensure that stores notify consumers about their rights under the Bottle Bill…”

He added, however, that the survey illustrated “that the expansion to bottled water has gone smoothly from a consumer perspective.”