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Monday, March 12, 2007

New York Gets Ready to Grab $100 Million a Nickel at a Time

New York's nickel deposit law on beer and soda containers first took hold in 1982. Now 25 years later, Gov. Eliot Spitzer wants to expand the deposit law to cover non-carbonated drinks, such as bottled water and teas. It might sound like small change, but part of the measure is a grab by the state of New York for millions of dollars in unclaimed deposit receipts.

According to figures from 2004, New York consumers paid $264.2 million in deposit fees. The state says that $81.3 million of those deposits went unclaimed. In the past, the money has ended up in the hands of wholesalers and bottlers. If bottled water and non-carbonated drinks are added to the list of beverages requiring deposits, it's estimated the unclaimed funds would easily top $100 million.

Gov. Spitzer says the funds would be used for environmental programs and he has included the money in the state budget proposal. He has the backing of environmental groups and local governments, who hope to get grants funded by the unclaimed deposits. On the other side of the coin in this debate is a group calling itself New Yorkers for Real Recycling Reform. Made up of beverage companies and retailers, they claim adding the new containers to store recycling streams will cause the system to be overloaded and drive up beverage prices. They also charge that the deposit law expansion amounts to a new tax from the new governor.

The anti-deposit group is pushing to have the entire deposit law scrapped, arguing that curbside recycling is a cleaner and less costly method for handling recycling.

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