New York group studies expansion of state’s bottle bill
New York's Department of Environmental Conservation completes a study to help determine whether the state should expand its bottle deposit system to include glass wine and liquor bottles.
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New York group studies expansion of state’s bottle bill

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation analyzed the feasibility of expanding the bottle deposit system to include wine, liquor bottles.

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December 4, 2019

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation has completed a study on the state’s bottle bill in November to help determine whether the state should expand the program to include wine and liquor bottles. The Department of Environmental Conservation commissioned a study on expanding the state’s bottle bill through the help of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Pollution Prevention Institute

The study includes details on potential costs and benefits of expanding the program to include wine and liquor bottles. 

“From an environmental standpoint, expanding the number of containers included in the bottle bill would very likely increase recycling rates of these containers, relieve approximately 164 [material recovery facilities] MRFs from a portion of a low-value and difficult-to-manage material and provide opportunity for nearly 315,000 tons of additional container glass to make its way through the redemption system where it has a much higher likelihood of being used in new container manufacturing and other higher use recycling outlets,” the Pollution Prevention Institute states in its conclusion of the report. “Initial estimates indicate that from a purely capacity-related standpoint, regional glass manufacturers have capacity to use the amount of additional cullet that may be made available if wine and liquor bottles were included in the deposit system.”

According to the study, adding a nickel deposit on liquor and wine bottles could help to divert these glass bottles from municipal recycling and waste streams. The study reports that this could also help to increase recycling rates of wine and liquor bottles by about 65 percent.

However, the study reports that a deposit would impose costs to liquor and wine sellers, including the expense of buying or renting reverse vending machines (RVMs), which could cost up to $36 million annually. The report states that retailers of wine and liquor “would incur significant costs by being required to become either a deposit initiator or dealer for the first time. Many of these businesses are small independently run enterprises that would incur these costs individually and not benefit from any economies of scale that larger chain establishments might.” 

The Pollution Prevention Institute advised at the end of the report that this topic warrants further research and consideration before expanding the state’s bottle deposit program to include wine and liquor bottles. Some topics to further research include determining consumer willingness to return containers to a second set of locations such as wine and liquor stores; the capacity of third-party pick-up agents to transport and clean additional bottle bill glass; research into the feasibility of other options to increase glass recycling such as extended producer responsibility (EPR); in-depth cost-benefit analysis that determines variability across business type, size and location; and investigating the possible underreporting apparent from the discrepancy between the Container Recycling Institute sales data and that of the Department of Taxation and Finance. 

Currently, Iowa, Maine and Vermont are the only states that include wine and liquor bottles in their bottle deposit systems, the study reports. If New York adopts this expansion, it would likely be the state with the largest volume of bottles included in a bottle deposit system due to its size. 

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation paid $27,000 to conduct this report. To view the report, click here.