NEW YORK CITY -- A recent court decision has lifted an injunction that had blocked implementation of New York's expanded bottle bill, making key provisions of the law effective immediately. But the bottled water industry is awaiting a hearing on Oct. 22, when it hopes to convince the judge to extend further the date by which it must comply.
The Bigger, Better Bottle Bill, which became law on April 7, updated New York's 1982 Bottle Bill by expanding it to include a 5¢ deposit on bottled water. Nickel deposits, redeemable upon returning the bottle, are already collected on carbonated beverages, wine coolers and beer sold in New York. The new law also requires beverage companies to return 80% of unclaimed bottle deposits -- an estimated $115 million annually -- to the state. It calls for making the program more "user-friendly" by improving the infrastructure for collecting and recycling bottles and cans.
The International Bottled Water Association and two bottlers, Nestlé Waters North America and Polar Corp., challenged the bill on May 22, alleging that certain provisions were unconstitutional. In June, another judge had issued a broad order enjoining enforcement all the provisions of the expanded Bottle Bill until at least April 2010.
On Aug. 17, Judge Deborah Batts, of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, ruled that some of the key provisions of the expanded bottle bill could go into effect immediately, including the return of 80% of the unclaimed nickels to the state, and increased handling fees for bottle redemption centers.
Only one provision of the expanded bottled bill, which had required bottles sold in New York to have a UPC label code specific to New York, continues to be enjoined indefinitely.
The judge also ruled that the bottled water industry must comply with the expanded bottled bill by Oct. 22, unless IBWA, Nestlé and Polar can demonstrate at their hearing that compliance is impossible.
According to IBWA president Joe Doss, "October is still too short a period of time for many bottled water companies, especially the smaller companies, to meet New York's new bottle bill amendments."
The new bottle bill applies to nearly all forms of bottled water, including flavored water, vitamin water and water containing artificial sweeteners, but exempts bottled water products that have sugar added. IBWA said it continues to seek a revision to the provision that exempts water products to which sugar has been added, charging that it gives special preference to the companies that sell such drinks.