Food Association: New York Bill Spells End for Bottled Water

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Food Association: New York Bill Spells End for Bottled Water

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Unless the state's recently passed and expanded bottle bill is changed, bottled water may disappear from store shelves in the state as of June 1, according to industry association officials cited in a Daily Gazette report.

The Bigger Better Bottle Bill, signed into law in April, adds single-serving bottled water to the list of containers eligible for the nickel redemption, and requires all New York deposit containers, including bottled water, to have a universal product code label unique to the state, effective June 1, the report stated.

The Department of Environmental Conservation will enforce the bill, which amended the state’s environmental conservation law, according to the report.

Food and beverage industry representatives argue they will not be able to meet the June 1 deadline, especially for bottled water, and as a result, retailers will not stock bottled water.

"We don’t know if the Legislature and the governor’s office are going to postpone the June 1 effective date. If they don’t, the [state] Department of Environmental Conservation was direct in telling us that retailers cannot sell bottled water unless labeled with the 5-cent redemption coupon," Michael Rosen of the Food Industry Alliance of New York State told the paper.

Jim Calvin of the New York Association of Convenience Stores, told the paper it is logistically impossible for the bottling and distribution industry to re-label millions of water bottles by June 1. The law gave only 60 days to re-label the bottles with a New York-specific bar code.

"There are serious logistical problems with the supply chain. Bottlers of bottled water don’t bottle it and label it a day before it reaches our stores. They bottle it and label it three or six months before it reaches our stores," Calvin said, adding the re-labeling requirement will cost the industry millions of dollars.

A supporter of the legislation, William Cook of the Citizen Campaign for the Environment, is sympathetic to industry concerns.

"We have a concern when there is any attempt to reopen the existing language. We recognize it may be an issue as far as the phase-in time. If it is a real issue and the industry can demonstrate it needs an extra 30 days, we do not object to that," he said. "And if they can demonstrate the bar code is an issue, do away with it."

The bottling and distribution industry fought the bill, but after they lost, Calvin said, "our job now is to comply, and we want to succeed. In order to succeed we need to have enough lead time to comply with requirements."

Rosen, of the Food Industry Alliance, said both the Assembly and Senate introduced legislation to amend the bottle bill. In the Senate, the effective date would be pushed back to Jan. 1, and repeal the state-specific bar codes. Meanwhile, the Assembly amendment would postpone the date until Jan. 1, but include the bar code measure, according to the report.

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