Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Should New York's bottle deposit law be updated? Advocates say yes.

Glass bottles of different sizes and colors on a table.
Provided Photo
An expanded bottle bill could include these bottles.

Advocates who want to expand the state’s decades-long bottle deposit law testified today (Monday) at a hearing held by the New York State Senate and Assembly. They say adding more categories of containers would reduce the use of plastics and ease burdens on municipal landfills.

New York’s 1982 bottle law, which places a 5-cent deposit fee on containers for carbonated soft drinks and beer, was expanded in 2009 to include plastic water bottles.

But environmental advocates say New York’s law could be broader and include wine bottles, liquor bottles and other plastic beverage containers.

Erica Smitka with the League of Women Voters holds up two bottles to demonstrate. Both are made of plastic and are of similar size. One is for holding soda-pop or other carbonated soft drinks. The other is a type of bottle that normally contains orange juice, iced tea, or lemonade.

“They're both plastic bottles. They both have similar plastic tops,” Smitka said. “They look identical truly. The only difference is that one can be redeemed for five cents and the other cannot and goes pretty much straight to the landfill.”

Smitka says the change could encourage more people to redeem their bottles, increasing the chances that they will be recycled and reused properly.

“It could help increase New York State's redemption rate from 64 percent to 90 percent, which is a huge increase when you know we really only continue to create waste”

Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group says the deposit amount should be higher, too. He says that would incentivize people to not just throw the deposit bottles into the regular recycling or trash.

“A nickel in 1983 is not what a nickel is in 2023,” said Horner, who said if that amount were adjusted for inflation, it would be 15 cents now.

The advocates are asking Governor Kathy Hochul to include the proposal in her new budget plan, due in January.

Hochul says she hasn’t made any decision about whether to include it.

“I understand the interest in it,” Hochul said. “We're still in the early stages of formulating our budget.”

The governor says she and her team are still “pressure-testing” a number of proposals before they make a final decision.

Opponents include the liquor industry and grocery store chains. They say it would increase their expenses for handling deposit containers. They also say wine and liquor bottles don’t contribute to waste and recycling problems the way that plastic bottles do.

A woman in a patterned white blouse stands against a marble wall with plastic bottles in her hands.
Karen DeWitt
Erica Smitka, legislative director for the New York State League of Women Voters, demonstrates what she says is the need to expand the state's bottle deposit law.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment and interviews newsmakers. Karen previously worked for WINS Radio, New York, and has written for numerous publications, including Adirondack Life and the Albany newsweekly Metroland.