Modernize New York’s Bottle Bill

November 17, 2021

As we approach the 40th anniversary of the Bottle Bill (in 2022), we are facing a solid waste disaster:

  • Society is drowning in discarded plastic waste
  • Local recycling programs are in crisis on several fronts
  • On our current course, the ocean could contain by weight more plastics than fish by mid-century

Reducing the amount of plastic waste – and waste in general – is a critical way to avoid “doomsday” environmental scenarios. It is time for a Bigger, Better Bottle Bill!

The Current Bottle Bill

Enacted in 1982 and expanded in 2009, the New York State Returnable Container Act, commonly known as the “Bottle Bill,” requires a 5-cent refundable deposit to be placed on eligible beverage containers – currently beer, soda, wine coolers, and water. Over its nearly 40-year history, the Bottle Bill has proven to be a highly effective program to reduce litter and increase recycling rates. In 2020, New York’s redemption rate was at 64%, roadside container litter was reduced by 70%, and 5.5 billion containers were recycled in the state. But we need to do more, and now is the appropriate time to review and improve this law.

Modernize the Bottle Bill

  • Expand the Bottle Bill to include wine, spirits, hard cider, and most non-carbonated beverages. A deposit system can dramatically reduce litter and solid waste that would otherwise be discarded. Many other states have already added these containers to their laws.
  • Increase the deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents and use revenues to support recycling equity. States with higher deposit fees have higher redemption rates. Increasing the deposit could also generate more revenues for the state, with those additional funds being used to address limits on redemption options in low-income communities and other litter and solid waste problems.
  • Boost accessibility. Enforcement of the law is spotty. Use additional revenues to boost enforcement and to expand redemption centers into “food deserts” that limit consumers’ ability to redeem their deposits.

NYPIRG is tackling this critical issue on a number of fronts, and your support will be instrumental in our efforts to modernize the Bottle Bill and increase recycling in New York. For more information, please visit the Bottle Bill 40 Coalition website. And check out nypirg.org/environment to learn more about our urgent campaigns to protect the environment and public health.