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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    NYPIRG lobbying for “Bigger Better Bottle Bill”

    The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) is teaming up with over 600 organizations to convince the New York State Legislature to include the “Bigger Better Bottle Bill” in the budget that will be put out on Apr. 1.

    The original Bottle Bill, passed in 1982, requires a five-cent refundable deposit on beer and soda containers sold in New York.

    This means that consumers can return their empty bottles and cans to their local grocery store and receive five cents for each can.

    Over the last 25 years, over 90 billion bottles and cans have been recycled and returned as a result of the bill, according to NYPRIG.org. However, NYPIRG believes the time has come to update the bill.

    The non-profit organization is lobbying for two major updates to the existing bill.

    One update requires beverage distributors to transfer any unclaimed deposits to the State Environmental Protection Fund. Many beverage companies do not return the estimated $140 million a year in unclaimed deposits.

    The updated bill would also include water bottles.

    Bottled water, like other non-carbonated beverages such as iced teas and sports drinks, does not currently have deposits.

    Each year close to 3 billion non-carbonated beverage bottles and cans are thrown away because they do not have refundable deposits, according to NYPIRG.org.

    Sales of non-carbonated beverages are projected to exceed soda sales by 2010 as well, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

    But consumers are not the only ones who would benefit from deposits on bottled water.

    According to Pete Grannis, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, “[The] Bigger Better Bottle Bill would help address global climate change [by] saving and preventing 281,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and would increase the number of redeemable containers in New York State by three billion each year.”

    On Feb. 26, two SBU students and the NYPRIG Projects coordinator traveled to Albany and joined approximately 100 other students from New York State where they met with legislatures to advocate the bill.

    “Physically meeting with the representatives was more successful than simply sending them letters would have been,” said Christian J. Williams, one of the lobbying students. “[The representatives] were able to experience, first hand, the seriousness with which students throughout the state of New York regard the updates to the Bottle Bill.”

    Williams was able to meet with Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat (Dem-72nd District) and Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel (Dem-16th District).

    “The meetings went very well and the representatives that we met with were very open to hearing what we had to say,” he said.

    Eri Inaishi, another student lobbyist, agreed. “I believe the one additional push from meeting would make a difference,” said Inaishi. “For supporting senators and assembly members, it would encourage them to be sure they are supporting right bill for citizens. If they do not, we have a chance to make them to reconsider the issue by explaining our point of view.”

    If the Bottle Bill did include water bottles, more people would be recycling them in order to receive the deposit money. This would result in cleaner beaches, parks and streets, according to Pizer.

    All vendors who sell carbonated beverages in New York State must give consumers back deposits when asked.

    “Many places aren’t aware of the law and are completely flabbergasted when you ask for your five cents back,” said Pizer. “So as important as the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is, it is equally or even more important for New York State to actually enforce the law.”

    NYPRIG will continue to lobby for the bill and encourage students to write letters to their constituents until the budget is released.

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