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Bigger bottle Bill

Local business owners concerned about cost, work of taking more returns

April 19, 2009
The Leader Herald


The Leader-Herald

The expanded bottle bill in the state budget, passed by legislators April 3, has some local business owners up in arms over the added work the bill will cause them.

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Gloversville Hannaford Service Associate Matt Roberts sorts bottles on the bottle counter at the store April 9.

The bill, called the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, is the first overhaul of the state's bottle deposit law since it was created in 1982. Environmental groups have attempted to expand the bill to include all non-carbonated beverage containers, but the final bill as passed in the budget only includes water bottles.

It's a compromise environmental groups were willing to make, said Environmental Advocates of New York Senior Environmental Associate Laura Haight.

"Business owners were complaining about receiving dirty bottles back," Haight said. "Most of them, though, are equipped to take back water bottles. It's the same exact thing as they've been taking back."

The most notable difference will be in the volume of returns, Haight said.

The bill has been in the works for about nine years, but never gained traction in the Senate. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Republican, was opposed to the bill. With his resignation in July and the Democrats' new majority in the Senate, activists sought to bring the bill back to legislators' attention.

The law passed in 1982 put a nickel deposit on carbonated bottles and cans. The expanded bill puts the same deposit on water bottles. The law also requires beverage companies to return 80 percent of the unclaimed bottle and can deposits to the state, which could generate millions in revenue, according to the Environmental Advocates of New York.

At Naif's Grocery in Gloversville, Manager Ed Abraham Jr. said he is not in favor of the expanded bill and disagrees with Haight's assertion that it will help pollution.

"I think [the first law] it is meant to beautify the area and I don't think it has achieved that goal," he said. "[The new bill] won't help anything either. I think it's a horrible law."

Abraham said he was discouraged when the new bill passed because it will require business owners to comply by June 1. Compliance will create more work at a time when the business cannot afford to hire additional workers, he said.

"It will definitely cause more work for me," he said. "I can't afford to hire anybody, so I'll be doing it."

Chuck Murray, an employee at TJ's Discount Beverage in Johnstown, agreed with Abraham. He said he feels the bottles should go straight into a recycling center and skip the businesses altogether.

"It should go into recycling so they don't have to fight over whose pennies it is," he said.

Murray said store employees will have to handle the extra work, which he said he expects to be substantial. And while bottle returns are supposed to be clean, they often are not. That creates a health hazard for the workers, he said.

"A lot of times, it's dirty. It's supposed to be clean, but after it sits around for a while, it's a health hazard," he said. "It's nothing but disgusting."

Murray said recyclers should handle the bottles and the sorting of them. He said recycling businesses would see an increase in customers and potential entrepreneurs may feel compelled to start their own.

"Everyone wants to open a recycling center because of all the extra revenue coming in," he said.

On that point, the Environmental Advocates of New York agrees. The law includes a number of measures that will improve opportunities for New Yorkers to return empty bottles and cans, including incentives for businesses and redemption centers, and requirements for large stores to maintain dedicated areas for bottle and can returns, according to the group. Those measures will create jobs across the state, the group asserts.

Abraham and Murray said the creation of those jobs will do little to help them. No new jobs will be created at their businesses because they can't afford to hire more workers.

"I don't know how we'll deal with it," Murray said.

Kayleigh Karutis can be reached at



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