Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Bottle Bill Ban Battle

This heralding by the media of environmentalists unhappy with the latest ban on the deposit law just passed strikes me as an odd way to look at the halt in the NYS bottle bill that was supposed to go into effect on June 1st, and an odd way to see environmental issues in general by the media. Because, of course, shouldn’t everyone be miffed that the battle to remove discarded bottles from our streets, urban forests, our roadways (you-name-it, bottles are everywhere) via a popular measure (most New Yorkers are for this bottle bill) has been squelched by a judge, bottling companies, some politicians, grocery and convenience stores? [Note, local recycling newslinks:]

The media sees a battle, not an environmental problem where an incredible amount of waste is piling up around us. For, the press cannot see the forest because of the trees: the forest--our environmental issues that jeopardize the sustainability of our way of life; the trees--the myopic way mainstream media frames environmental issues. Mainstream media see environmental issues as a series of battles, oftentimes only with those opponents willing to step up to the microphone. Allegedly, the rest of us are dozing on the sidelines. It is as if while their train is plummeting off a cliff, passengers watching a fight in the aisle between the brakeman and the engineer believe they have no stake in the events about to unfold.

In this story about the ban on this bill, what is missing is the incredible amount of trash littering our world, the loss of natural resources, and the needless use of energy making our stuff that is polluting our planet. It’s not about squabbles going on by groups of angry people remote from our existence: It’s about how we (every one of us) conduct our business (economics) and whether or not we can keep doing that—without depriving our children of a future.

At present, our environment is failing, pollution is building, our energy sources are warming the planet…, and the list goes on and on. The tragedy of this bottle bill ban is that solving the larger problem of the trash build-up in our environment is on hold because the media cannot conceive of a way to report on it other than framing it as a long battle interspersed with a few good verbal whacks on each side.

Here’s some recycling matters our media could be reporting on until April of 2010 if they weren’t so dysfunctional: instances of volunteers taking the initiative and cleaning up our parks and trails in this Recession; seeing that our county enforces existing laws on haulers land-filling recyclables; making sure that televisions taken to the curbside because of the signal change on July 12th do not go into landfills; finding out if we in Rochester have recycling audits like Buffalo to see how many of us are actually recycling; finding out why our county doesn’t recycling beyond #2 plastics like Ontario County does; finding out how the recycling market affects recycling locally; find out where recycled products get recycled properly; finding out about programs to develop community composting programs that might remove some 10% of our food waste from landfills and sell as compost; finding out what local entrepreneurs are doing to create jobs in this area to keep trash from landfills; and maybe even compile a list of local recycling places for our residents to recycling properly—like this list: Donate, Recycle & Reuse


The Spoonman said...

Just found your site, thanks for tracking environmental issues in the Rochester area. I must, however, strenuously disagree with your "praise" of the Bottle Bill.

As someone who moved to NYS quite a few years back, I've hated bottle returns since the first time I had to do it. I have a recycling bin that I take to my curb every week, into which I can place aluminum cans. Why should those that once housed carbonated beverages be excluded from this? Why do I have to make a special trip to have these recycled? One reason: it's how it's always been done.

The fact is, the Bottle Law increases costs for businesses who must now provide a mechanism to track deposits and take care of returns. It forces consumers to have to put special effort into recycling one specific type of bottle (well, it would've been two if the stupidity of expanding it had been allowed to happen) and it just makes no sense.

Every county in NYS has curbside recycling that will take aluminum cans. Get rid of the Bottle Law and let people put their cans in the bin they already use. Will this increase roadside trash? Hardly. People who throw their cans out their car window will continue to do so, and people who don't do it now won't start. Arguments to the contrary will require you to provide data from a state that used to have deposits, removed them and saw an increase in trash on roadsides.

About two years after moving here, I finally decided I was wasting my time with deposits. I drink so few carbonated drinks that I was spending an extra half an hour every few weeks to recover a dollar in deposit fees. Since I did the math, I've put all of my deposit cans and bottles in the recycling bin. If this goes into effect on water bottles, I'll do the same. I refuse to follow a stupid, worthless law that does nothing but fund Tomra.

Frank J. Regan said...

I live in the city and I can see the results of the present bottle law. Already, each evening as peoples set out their trash and recyclables, many are collecting those deposit bottles for money.

Meaning, people because of the deposit law are actively gathering deposit bottles. A provision for recycling centers disbursed about the state might be an even better idea that forcing small businesses to collect bottles, and that should be the next step. As for people who continue to throw bottles into our streets, lawns, parks, etc, they wouldn’t if our society began at an early age to show that we all have a stake in a healthy environment.

In any event, recycling bottles and everything has to happen for a variety or reason: the world has changed, it’s more polluted, there’s less resources—which can in part be recovered by recycling laws.
Also, your point about NYC curbside recycling is a good one and ultimately that could happen if our recycling centers could cheaply separate bottles and cans and 1-7 plastics including Styrofoam.

But, trashing our environment is not an option and the Bigger Better Bottle Bill also had provisions to pay DEC staff, which we desperately need for monitoring our environment.

Thanks for your opinions,