Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bottles, Cans, Disposers and Food Stores

In today's edition of Crain's In$ider it is reported that Governor Spitzer has placed recycling bins all over the capitol, a move that some see as a harbinger of his support for an expanded bottle bill ("bigger and better" only for those who really don't care about the profitability of local food stores). Proponents of the measure, particularly the virulently anti-business NYPIRG, simply don't care about what kind of havoc this will cause to space strapped supermarkets in New York City.

Now we know all about the so-called limitation on redemption that the bill proposes for stores under a certain size and the measure also says that any store in New York City that can find a redemption center within a half mile can have its responsibilities waived under the act. Which is precisely our point. If redemption were profitable than we would have seen a proliferation of these redemption outlets all over the city.

It simply isn't under current regulations and the space and sanitary problems are manifest despite what the bogus "FAQ" put out by NYPIRG. After all what are we to make of its assertion that sanitation isn't an issue because "A survey of health departments in all ten states with bottle bills found no reported incidences of health code violations...due to deposit systems."

Really? Now just who would have "reported" anything related to a store's deposit system? Did NYPIRG survey any of the stores and inquire into their extra costs of sanitation? Did the group examine the relationship, particularly in New York City, between the existence of sweet residue in the deposit containers and an increase in rodent infestation?

Of course not, because when it comes to defending business the NYPIRG agenda is always on the other side. The same is true for its position on Intro 133, the pilot program for commercial food waste disposers. Here's a measure that will eliminate store-based food waste and will increase recycling at store level by 99%! Yet NYPIRG, more concerned for the flora and fauna in Jamaica Bay than the public health of black and Latino neighborhoods is opposed to this dramatic recycling initiative. Why? Because it would make stores more economically viable, a variable that is simply off the group's one-sided ideological radar.

One last point. In the NYPIRG FAQ there is talk about the compatibility of deposit systems with curbside collection. In trying to make the case for compatibility, however, the group does the opposite and argues persuasively for the elimination of curbside when it says, "Bottle bills are more effective at collecting recyclables than curbside programs, and at no cost to tax payers."

Aside from the fact that most tax payers are also beverage consumers and will surely pay the deposit "tax" incurred with the extra costs of collection (plus the added-on costs if the government "reclaims" the unclaimed deposits from beverage wholesalers), this argument needs to be examined further. We have been pointing out for at least sixteen years that a fully developed deposit-redemption center system (one that by-passes food retailer entirely) can and should replace the expensive and ineffective curbside system.

NYPIRG and the rest of the environmental lobby simply can't see its way past the ideological commitment it has to an anachronistic urban curbside collection program. A free-standing deposit system with adequate handling and collection fees built into the system, would create jobs and enhance recycling while at the same time enabling food stores to go back to what they do best: food retailing.