For now, there will be no expansion on New York state’s recycling laws to include a deposit on bottles of water. It’ll cost the state tens of millions of dollars that it needed to balance the budget.
But it would have done so in a rather unconstitutional manner.
Federal Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan ordered state officials to wait until next April 1 before requiring retailers to collect a 5-cent deposit on bottled water. Griesa also struck down a provision that would have required bottlers to affix a New York-specific universal product code to bottles sold in the state, and prohibited them from selling those bottles outside the state.
This is an extremely unconstitutional law. It would require bottled water distributors – not any other users of plastic bottles – to collect a 5-cent deposit per bottle of water, which can in turn be redeemed by consumers, provisions designed to encourage New Yorkers to recycle the billions of water bottles now thrown away each year. The UPC labeling requirement violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause, the New York Times notes, as the the language of the bill excludes any drink to which sugar has been added, such as sports drinks.
Water bottlers have filed suit, including environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s bottled water company, Keeper Springs.
Staunch bottled water opponents should heed the mission statement of Kennedy’s company, which donates all its after-tax profits to the environment:
While our company encourages investment in public water supplies and minimizing the use of plastic bottles – and of course, maximizing recycling – we believe that bottled water is a permanent fact of our society.