While New York’s retail food industry appreciates the laudable intent to increase consumer recycling of bottles, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to expand current law to include juice, tea, energy and sports drinks — among others — will have a significant impact on consumers and retailers.
Thirty years ago, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo signed the Solid Waste Management Act of 1988, boosting New York’s efforts to lead the nation in recycling by requiring the separation and segregation of recyclable or reusable materials from solid waste. This new law required municipalities to adopt local laws, thus implementing curbside collection recycling programs. It should be noted that curbside recycling is not only beneficial for our environment, but a commodity that boosts local government.
While New York’s bottle deposit law is already duplicative. And at the expense of curbside recycling efforts, this proposed expansion will impose labor costs on the retail food industry at an unsustainable rate.
Increasing the definition of returnable beverages will force retail food stores to increase capital costs by forcing the purchase or retrofitting of vending machines. The immediate and long-term expenses on retailers with this proposal will assuredly increase the costs to consumers.
The retail food industry is hyper-competitive and operates under very finite profit margins. With businesses in New York already reeling from increased labor costs, these new costs will assuredly be passed on to consumers.
From a retail space perspective alone, increased volume will be difficult to comply with. New York’s retailers are overwhelmed with the products they are required to process.
Considering that many of the products they redeem are not from customers, the bottle bill in effect turns our grocery stores into redemption centers. Certainly, the idea of recycled waste stored near the products we purchase to feed our families is not considered a healthy alternative.
New York’s retail food industry takes great pride in being a corporate leader in promoting environmental stewardship. This proposal is not about boosting the environment and solely about injecting the state’s general fund off the backs of retailers. Albany should focus on educating New Yorkers on best practices in utilizing curbside recycling and avoiding costly new mandates that put a key facet of our economy in peril.
The writer is president and chief executive officer of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State.