In New York “Bottle Bill” Battle, Judge Delays Bottle Deposits Until April

June 4, 2009
Delay gives bottlers time to comply with changes

U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa has blocked New York state officials from collecting five-cent deposits on bottles of water until next April, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The delay gives bottling companies more time to lobby for changes, but may also cost the state an estimated $115 million in unclaimed deposits on bottles for water and other beverages that it expected to begin collecting this year.

The judge’s order prevents New York from enforcing any amendments to the so-called "Bottle Bill" to give bottlers and others time to comply with the changes signed into law by Gov. David Paterson.

"We are using all options—legislative and judicial—to ensure that the state can implement this vital environmental law as soon as possible," Paterson spokeswoman Erin Duggan said June 2.

Environmentalists criticized the delay.

"More than two billion water bottles will end up in the waste stream rather than recycled," said Laura Haight, chief environmental associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

In the week prior to this order, Griesa temporarily stopped the law from taking effect on its scheduled date of June 1, concluding that the requirement for New York-specific bar coding on labels violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause, the AP reported.

"What we think needs to happen right now is for the bill to be fixed to include all bottles, and to make sure unclaimed deposit revenue is being funneled back to the municipalities to support community-based recycling," said Trish Wexler, spokeswoman for Nestle Waters North America, which filed the lawsuit along with the International Bottled Water Association and Polar Corp.

The bottlers argued that the New York-specific code would drive up business costs, and also criticized the exclusion of bottled water containing sugar.

John Pierce, spokesman for a coalition of beverage makers, distributors and grocers that opposed the deposit expansion, said, "We're hopeful we'll be able to use this time to work to find a solution that makes real environmental progress as well as not harming New York's consumers and businesses."

Source: The Associated Press