Skip to content
Recycling
Recycling (Photo: Alan Levine on Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

Time to Update the Bottle Bill

New York leaders are hoping to cut glass waste by expanding the state's bottle deposits

by John Ferro
Share:

Half.

That’s the percentage of glass containers manufactured in the United States that ends up in landfills every year.

Despite the fact that glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss of purity, 53.1 percent of the beer and soft drink bottles; wine and liquor bottles; and bottles and jars for food and juices, cosmetics, and other products were dumped into landfills in 2017, according to the most recent Environmental Protection Agency data.

That’s a lot of broken glass — 4.7 million tons of it, according to the EPA.

Broken Glass Bottles (Photo: Anders Sandberg on Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

New York’s Proposed Expansion of the Bottle Bill

In New York, state leaders are envisioning a future with far lower levels of wasted glass. And they are looking to do it by enhancing a familiar tool: the bottle deposit.

New York is one of 10 states with so-called bottle bills that add a small, cash deposit to the sale of certain types of beverages. The others are California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, and Vermont, according to the Container Recycling Institute.

New York’s bill was enacted in 1982 and amended in 1983, 1992, and 2009. It adds a 5 cent deposit to sales of bottled beverages: carbonated water, energy drinks, juice, soft drinks, and tea; soda water; beer and other malt beverages; mineral water; wine and wine coolers; and any water that doesn’t contain sugar.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed adding sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit and vegetable beverages and ready-to-drink teas and coffee to the list. And state lawmakers have introduced legislation that would also include wine, liquor, cider, and distilled spirits.

Why Municipally-Recycled Glass is Hard to Get Rid Of

One of the goals of the proposals is to keep as much glass out of municipal recycling systems as possible. Glass that comes out of the municipal materials recovery facilities (or MRFs) tends to be of much lower quality than the glass that is collected through redemption programs at grocery stores and other retail outlets. That’s because the mechanical behemoths that are used to separate glass, plastic, newspaper and cardboard are not foolproof.

“When glass makes its way through the recycling system, it gets crushed and breaks down,” said Angelina Peone, Recycling Coordinator for the Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency. “In order to capture that, we have to capture these small pieces. So if you put anything in your recycling bin that is smaller than a tennis ball, it is going to get corralled with the crushed glass and contaminate the purity of the glass. We see things like bottle caps, batteries, small pill bottles — anything smaller than a tennis ball is essentially going to contaminate the glass.”

Recycling (Photo: Alan Levine on Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

The resulting product is often referred to MRF glass, or “murf” glass. Because of its low purity, MRF glass “is extremely hard to get rid of,” UCRRA Executive Director Tim Rose said. A survey by the Northeast Recycling Council found that 38 percent of MRF glass ends up in landfills in the Northeast.

Is the Impact Worth It? We Think So

In November 2019, the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology published a study assessing the impacts if just wine and liquor bottles were added to the bottle bill. The study estimated that such a change would impact 4,500 businesses and approximately 488 million containers in New York. Recycling rates of these containers, the study found, would increase by 65 percent.

Of course, that recovery would come with a cost. The study suggested that expansion would be costly for the wine and liquor industry, which would have to implement new collection procedures. New deposit initiators and dealers would experience approximately $40 million in direct costs, including $36 million in new labor costs.

“Taking responsibility for our waste is a critical step toward achieving a cleaner and greener Hudson Valley.”

Andy Bicking, Scenic Hudson’s Director of Public Policy.

Not surprisingly, the bill is opposed by the wine and liquor industry and supported by the recycling industry and some non-industry stakeholders. In a joint statement, more than 50 recycling organizations and environmental groups — including Scenic Hudson — noted that it’s been more than decade since the last amendment to the bottle bill.

“Taking responsibility for our waste is a critical step toward achieving a cleaner and greener Hudson Valley,” says Andy Bicking, Scenic Hudson’s Director of Public Policy.

He adds, “The bottle bill is a proven strategy that works for New York by incentivizing the return and redemption of empty containers and keeping them out of our river, parks and playing fields. The time has come to take the next step and expand the state’s bottle redemption law.”

More in this series

In this year’s ranking of bike-friendly states conducted annually by the League of American Bicyclists, New York placed 13th. (FYI, Massachusetts, Oregon,...
People might be forgiven for thinking that the dredging of Hudson River PCB toxins completed by General Electric in 2016...

Related Content

Editors' Picks

Climate Solutions
How to Get in on the Refillability Game
Land + Air + Water
Restoring Resilience to Mawignack Preserve
Land + Air + Water
Can Hops Make a Comeback in New York?
A close view of a hop growing on a vine. Behind it is a red barn.
Land + Air + Water
Protecting Forests by Managing the Exploding Deer Population
Climate Solutions
Floatovoltaics Makes Waves Approaching the Valley

Search Viewfinder:

Hudson Valley Viewfinder is a collaborative, community digital magazine sharing what inspires us about the beautiful Hudson Valley. We publish original stories and multimedia content about all things sustainable in the region along the Hudson River — including agriculture, science, wildlife, outdoor recreation, green transportation, environmental justice, and more.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Our mission is to immerse you in the storied history, fresh happenings, and coming solutions for making the Hudson Valley greener and more livable long-term.

Viewfinder is published by Scenic Hudson, the celebrated nonprofit credited with launching the modern grassroots environmental movement in 1963. With over 25,000 passionate supporters, Scenic Hudson’s mission is to sustain and enhance the Hudson Valley’s inspirational beauty and health for generations to come. Viewfinder supports that mission, because the better people understand what makes this place special, the more they will invest in protecting it. 

Keep up with the latest stories by subscribing to Scenic Hudson’s monthly digital newsletter, and connect with us on social via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Threads.

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

Lynn Freehill-Maye
Managing Editor
editorial@scenichudson.org 

Riley Johndonnell
Director Creative Strategies & Communications
rjohndonnell@scenichudson.org

We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
We’re always looking for ideas around our main topic areas of Climate Solutions, Land + Air + Water, Plants + Animals, History + Culture, Outdoors, and Community.
  • Journalists and writers who have deep familiarity with New York and the Hudson Valley, we’d love to have you contribute! Please do introduce yourself by email, sharing writing samples and any relevant pitches you may have.
  • Photographers and videographers, we’d love to hear from you and see what you do. Please send along a portfolio with images or footage that showcases your best and/or most relevant work, with an emphasis on anything captured outdoors. 
  • Illustrators, we commission artwork on the regular. Drop us a note with some of the beauty you’ve created.
  • Media Partners & Social Media Influencers, we welcome opportunities to team up on series and campaigns. Reach out with any background about yourselves and your ideas.
  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

  • We love to collaborate with media outlets, especially on episodic series (like these) of interest to our shared audiences. Past collaborations have included radio interviews, panel discussions and other events, original artwork, and e-blasts, all furthering the campaign’s excitement and reach. 
  • We also love to partner with other organizations whose missions align with Scenic Hudson’s. Feel free to reach out with some background on your group and its work.
  • Writers, photographers, and creatives, if you have an idea for a series or content campaign that might be a good fit, drop us a line!

Businesses, please note that as a nonprofit, Scenic Hudson is restricted from advertising or promoting for-profit companies, through Viewfinder or other outlets. While we understand content managers may wish to alert us to your company’s role in a relevant topic, we are unable to add links to businesses to our stories.

Subscribe!

Get the latest articles delivered right to your inbox  — for FREE!