Sunday, March 2, 2008

Buried In Bottles

A February 2008 study conducted by NYPIRG indicates, well, read on...

Buried in Bottles: A Survey of Beverage Containers in New York’s Litter
By Joseph Stelling, New York Public Interest Research Group

The New York Public Interest Research Group conducted litter surveys at twenty sites across New York State in October and November 2007. Cleanups were held at a variety of locations, including beaches (5), college campuses (2), urban neighborhoods (6), parks (4), riverfronts (2), and along a highway (1). Results showed that litter from non-carbonated beverage containers (bottled water, juice, sports drinks, etc.), which are not currently included in the state’s nickel deposit system (commonly known as the Bottle Bill), far outnumbered litter from beverage containers currently covered under the state’s Bottle Bill (soda, beer, sparkling water, malt beverages, and wine coolers). Even though non-carbonated beverages make up less than 30% of the U.S. beverage market, containers from these products accounted for 61% of the beverage container litter, and 21% of the total litter volume.

Background
Passed in 1982, the New York State Returnable Container Act, commonly known as the Bottle Bill, has been highly effective at capturing carbonated beverage containers. The Bottle Bill places a 5-cent deposit on carbonated beverage containers, which is fully refundable to consumers who return their bottles and cans to their local store or redemption center. Between 1983, when the Bottle Bill went in effect, and 2005, the most recent year for which New York has reported statistics, the Bottle Bill achieved an average redemption rate of 73.6%, with additional containers being captured by curbside programs. The deposit system is the most effective way to capture beverage containers because they are typically consumed “on the go” and disposed of away from home. According to a 2002 report, the 10 states with deposit systems recovered beverage containers at 2.5 times the rate of states without deposits. The authors of the original Bill had no way of knowing that 25 years later, bottled water and other noncarbonated drinks would see such a rise in popularity. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, bottled water sales have risen more than ten-fold in the last decade alone. At the current rate of growth, the Container Recycling Institute projects that sales of non-carbonated beverages will surpass soda sales by 2010.

Recommendation
In the last 25 years consumer habits have changed, and we must adapt our laws to reflect these changes. These trends will likely become more prevalent with every passing year that NYS fails to modernize its beverage container deposit system. If the trends we found hold true across the entire litter stream, then an updated Bottle Bill would target an additional 21% of New York’s Litter. In order to reduce beverage container litter in our communities, the NYS Legislature should update New York’s Bottle Bill to include non-carbonated beverages.

*For more information about this survey or NYPIRG’s campaign to pass the Bigger Better Bottle Bill, contact Joseph Stelling at (518) 436-0876 or email jstelling@nypirg.org

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