Thursday, April 02, 2009

Revise That Law!

As Crains Insider reports this morning (subscription), the state's claiming of 80% of the undredeemed deposits from the bottle bill will put a serious hurt on some of New York's small bottlers: "Initially, the unclaimed nickels were seen as an unexpected bonus for the industry, but over time, many businesses have come to depend on them. One industry representative says for some small beverage companies, “their entire profit margin is built on unredeemed deposits.”

And the spotlight is on our client, Good-O Beverage of the Bronx: "Some businesses, such as Good-O Beverage on Boone Avenue in the Bronx, have received a sympathetic response from their local senators (in Good-O’s case, Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.). But their plight was not compelling enough to move senators to undermine their majority leader, Malcolm Smith, who cut the bottle bill deal in closed-door talks with the governor and the Assembly speaker."

But it's not only Good-O; there's also Brooklyn Bottling on Linden Boulevard makers of D & G Jamaican Soft Drinks and Tropical Fantasy soda and juices; as well as GuS Soda, sold at more upscale venues And let's not forget Top Pop owned and operated by Marlen Lugones and Inca Kola owned by the Jardines family. All of these minority and women-owned enterprises would be severely damaged if the state takes away the unredeemed deposits.

But that's not the only defect in the law: "Many are upset that they will have to add a UPC symbol to bottles. The codes are designed to prevent consumers from redeeming deposit-free bottles purchased in other states. Bill opponents warn that consumers will circumvent the measure by returning such bottles to busy clerks rather than redemption machines that are programmed to reject them."

The biggest problem with the separate UPC code is that it will require the added expense of separate bottling lines and additional warehouse space-further challenging struggling small bottlers-not to mention the further additional costs to the consumer it will entail. All of which could have been avoided by an open legislative process: “If this was done in sunlight, we could have negotiated,” a bottle bill opponent says. Instead, small beverage companies will seek legislation exempting them from elements of the bill they find onerous."

Hopefully, legislators will see that there is room for an adjustment to a law that, quite frankly, very few of them had the opportunity to review before it was subsumed within the larger budget agreement. Changes here are only the right thing to do.