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Issue Date: Vol. 49, No.5, May 2009, Posted On: 6/3/2009

Court Issues Injunction Delaying New York Bottle Bill Start Date

Emily Jed
Returnable Container Act, Bottle Bill, New York State, bottled water, UPC labels, IBWA, International Bottled Water Association, Joseph Doss, Nestlé Waters, Polar Beverages, Judge Thomas P. Griesa, vending machine, vending route, vending business

ALBANY, NY -- The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction on May 27 delaying the June 1, 2009, effective date of the Returnable Container Act, known as the "Bottle Bill," and the requirement for New York-exclusive Universal Product Code labeling. Joining International Bottled Water Association as plaintiffs in the lawsuit that led to the injunction are Nestlé Waters North America Inc. and The Polar Corp. d/b/a Polar Beverages.

"We are pleased and relieved that the court recognized how impossible it would be for local, national and international bottled water companies to comply with the requirements of the new law by the June 1 deadline, which comes just weeks after passage of the bill," said IBWA president and chief executive Joseph Doss in a prepared statement.

Judge Thomas P. Griesa requested that both sides provide further information for a reasonable timeframe in which to enact a workable effective date. The court noted that provisions of the statute requiring a New York state-specific UPC for all beverages subject to the Bottle Bill be halted. Additionally, IBWA said the judge agreed with its claim that the provision violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The new Bottle Bill imposes a number of different requirements on bottled water companies, including the need to design new product labels, register those labels with the state, implement a distribution system that ensures New York-labeled bottles are offered for sale only in New York and create a process to handle redemption of empty bottles by consumers.

IBWA argued that its members are unable to prepare for all these requirements in such a short timeframe (less than 60 days after the law was passed). It also charged that while the new Bottle Bill applies to nearly all forms of bottled water, including flavored water, vitamin water and water containing artificial sweeteners, it creates an exception for bottled water products that have sugar added. The bottled water association said the exception gives special preference to companies that sell sugar water products, which violates the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.

In his oral ruling, Judge Griesa did not expressly address the so-called "sugar water" exemption. However, IBWA said it is expected to be included in his formal written order to be issued in the next few days.

The Bottle Bill, originally passed in 1982, is intended to encourage recycling and to reduce litter and waste. It requires consumers to pay a 5¢ deposit when purchasing certain bottled beverages and permits consumers to obtain a refund of that deposit by returning the empty bottle to the retailer.

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