Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More Deposits, No Returns

Crains Insider is reporting that the expanded bottle bill may get a greater impetus from the newly installed governor:

"As lieutenant governor, David Paterson gave a rousing speech this month to hundreds
of supporters of a bill to expand nickel deposits to noncarbonated beverages. Environmentalists read that as a sign that as governor, Paterson won’t drop the initiative as readily as predecessor Eliot Spitzer did during budget negotiations a year ago. Working in their favor is a deficit approaching $5 billion, which the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill would help close. But the bill is opposed by bottlers and food retailers and has been blocked for years by Senate Republicans."

So, once again the government is looking to place additional burdens on the city and state food and beverage retailers. What a shock! Isn't it time that the city examine the wisdom of maintaining dual recycling systems-an expensive curbside program; and a burdensome store-based one that now includes plastic bags.

A much better idea would be for the government to actually establish a network of redemption centers, with a deposit based collection system whose fees adequately supported the redemption work. Retailers would then be given a choice to opt into a system whose handling charges really supported the work; not like now where the 2 cent handling fee is only about half of what the actual collection costs are.

Which brings us to New York's C Licenses, the 450 independent beer and soda distributors also known throughout the state as beverage centers. These beverage outlets function as essential redemption points in the state's deposit collection system, but their existence is being threatened by pricing policies of franchised beer wholesalers who operate from state protected, territorially exclusive, monopolies.

Which is why the independents have been pushing for price protection in the form of two companion bills: S6752, introduced in the Senate by Dean Skelos; and A10216, introduced in the Assembly by Vito Lopez. The legislation would preserve the functional discounts that a wholesaler in a normal competitive market would expect, but which the C license doesn't get because of the fact that franchised wholesalers are insulated from competition.

If the legislation fails, than the 450 independents that are doing the bulk of much of the state's redemption work would be put on the brink of extinction; something that would be no good for the environment and a disaster for these small businesses that employ around 10,000 people all over the state (with a particular emphasis on the low income areas of our cities).