New York State Exposed: Deposit law -- keep it or can it?

Posted at: 01/06/2014 6:31 AM
Updated at: 01/06/2014 7:01 PM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

Chances are you have bottles and cans stacked up in your garage or in a bag in the back of your car.  The five cents you get back is all part of the deposit law. Some local business owners want the state to change the law.

Most people wont debate that encouraging recycling is a good thing, but while some people say the bottle deposit law is doing that, others say you can encourage recycling with curbside trash programs.   

It's your money, but to get it back you have to return your bottles and cans. It's because of the deposit law, which has been around for four decades and charges you five cents each time you buy certain cans and bottles. The state says it is an incentive to get you to recycle.

John Horner said, “It is good for the environment, obviously.”

But not everyone believes the law encourages recycling. There are some reports online that say it's a money grab. So, News10NBC went to Can Kings in Fairport. Owner Zach Romano deals with the deposit law every day.

Zach Romano, Can Kings, said, “We see an asinine amount of cans and bottles every single day. It keeps so many out of the basements, landfills, the oceans and what have you. I think the deposit definitely helps cause if you go to other states, they just throw them out. They are in the landfills, they are in the forest and what have you, so we definitely save a lot of cans from being in the landfills.”

In fact, 39 states do not have a deposit law including Rhode Island. A report in Rhode Island from a few years ago found the best way to encourage recycling is to improve curbside trash pick-up programs.

But, you can also find other studies that say deposit laws work and are efficient ways of increasing recycling.

Horner said, “I mean it makes sense, it incentives bringing it back, so it makes sure that more is getting returned and it is good for the environment.”

There are some local business owners who feel the deposit law is just extra work. News10NBC spoke with the owner of a mini-mart in Rochester who refuses to take back cans. He didn't want to show his face, but explains the risks of taking back used cans at his shop.

Owner of mini-mart said, “A lot of them are picked up from garbage cans and brought in and they bring them in and they want them to recycle them and they obviously are not cleaned. There are bugs in them and there are just really dirty and I don't want to bring them in the store and I don't have a place to put them outside, I don't have the space.”

Back at Can Kings, Romano says he takes in hundreds of thousands of cans every week. So many it fills his store. Across New York State, 67 percent of bottles and cans are returned. The rest is recycled in curbside containers or simply thrown out. That adds up to about $100 million in unclaimed deposits. The state puts the money into the environmental protection fund and the general fund.