Albany, NY – The state Department of Taxation and Finance should increase monitoring and compliance with New York’s returnable container deposit law to recover all the funds the state is entitled to from bottlers and beverage distributors, according to an audit by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “New York’s landmark bottle bill motivated New Yorkers to recycle more and protect our environment. Unredeemed deposits also provide a dedicated funding source for the state’s Environmental Protection Fund,” DiNapoli said. “My auditors found the state Department of Taxation and Finance’s oversight over the program can be improved so environmental programs are not getting shortchanged. The department needs to do a better job collecting the money that could be used to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources, parkland, waterways and beaches.”
New York’s Returnable Container Act, known as the “bottle bill,” was enacted in 1982 to reduce litter, ease the burden on solid waste collection and disposal and encourage recycling. It requires a 5 cent deposit on soda, beer, bottled water and certain other beverage containers. Bottlers, distributors, dealers and certain retailers (deposit initiators) must register with the department and collect the initial deposit. When a bottle or can is not returned, the unclaimed deposit is held by the deposit initiator, who must remit 80 percent of any unclaimed bottle deposits to the state on a quarterly basis.
Deposit initiators are required to file quarterly reports detailing deposits, withdrawals and other information with the department. The department uses the data to calculate the state’s share of unclaimed deposits. By law, $23 million, plus certain penalties for violations of the deposit law go to the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), with most of the remainder deposited in the state’s General Fund. In addition, in any year that the state collects more than $122.2 million in unclaimed deposits, the excess funds also go to the EPF.
The department collected $109.5 million in unclaimed deposits in 2015 and $102.7 million in 2016.