Letter from Tracy Roberts
Bills Would Help Environment
While “Earth Day” has officially passed, let us not forget that every day is Earth Day. The New York State Assembly has an historic opportunity to take meaningful action in dealing with both our growing plastic pollution crisis and the ever-worsening climate crisis. There are two bills before the current legislative session calling for simple, effective solutions: The Bigger Better Bottle Bill (S227/A6353) and the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act (S4246/A5322).
The Bigger Better Bottle Bill would raise the deposit on cans and bottles to 10 cents, marking the first increase in more than 40 years, when the first bottle bill was put into law. Higher deposits mean more incentive for people to recycle and a badly-needed “pay raise” for the many low-income New Yorkers who depend on the redeemable deposits of empty bottles and cans.
Equally important, it would expand coverage to all beverage containers, including iced tea, sports drinks, and wine and liquor bottles. Bottle bills are a proven strategy for reducing litter—over 70 percent since being introduced in the early 1980s—and expansion will reduce the number of beverage containers needlessly ending up in landfills by an additional 15 percent. The environmental nonprofit ReLoop estimates that expanding the law would save New York’s municipalities $70.9 million annually through waste diversion, recycling an additional 5 billion beverage containers a year.
What’s more in this win-win equation is that the technology and infrastructure for redeeming glass and other beverage containers already exist, easing the burden on retail and grocery stores and redemption facilities. In short, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill hits all the sweet spots statewide: It creates jobs and revenue, improves quality of life (fewer broken liquor bottles littering parks and playgrounds) and helps in the fight against climate change.
Kudos to Senator Rachel May and Assemblymember Deborah Glick for introducing and sponsoring this long overdue upgrade to the 1982 Bottle Bill.
The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, introduced by Senator Pete Harckham and Assemblymember Glick, calls for a 50 percent packaging reduction over 12 years, establishes environmental standards for packaging and, critically, eliminates 12 toxic chemicals from packaging, including PFAS and other known carcinogens. “Chemical” recycling (incineration), also known by the spurious monikers “advanced” and “molecular” recycling, would not count toward recycling goals, as it only makes a bad situation worse. And at long last, this bill transfers the responsibility for managing packaging waste from taxpayers to producers and manufacturers, providing them with a financial incentive to use alternative packaging.
The production, use, and disposal of plastic and other single-use packaging have reached epic proportions; we are literally awash in excess packaging and plastic. By 2030, emissions from plastics—the fracking used to create it, plastic production and incineration—will surpass those from coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Microplastics have been found to cross the placental barrier, and by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Take any horrific statistic you like, but ask yourself: How much longer can we afford to choose the “convenience” of plastic, and blindly accept the ubiquitousness of it in our lives? Not a minute longer.
I urge all New York State legislators to co-sponsor and pass these bills this legislative session. Be on the right side of history.