It was 1982.
Ronald Reagan was president, Michael Jackson released his smash hit album “Thriller,” and “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial” was setting box office records.
It was also the year that New York State instituted a 5 cent deposit on returnable cans and bottles. And four decades later, it’s still just that – a nickel.
One of the first orders of business for newly re-elected Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature should be to “Raise the Return,” especially when you consider that a 1982 nickel has lost two-thirds of its value over those 40 years. Adjusted for inflation, the returnable deposit should now be 15 cents.
A bill introduced in January by Assemblyman Kevin Cahill would have done something like that, raising the redemption to 10 cents and expanding the categories of beverage containers to include wine, iced tea and sports and energy drinks.
Another Assembly bill, sponsored by Steven Englebright, (D-Long Island), adds wine and liquor bottles only. It would also raise the deposit, to 6 cents, which some might see as a kind of bizarre back-door attempt to keep the penny in wide circulation.
Both the Cahill and Englebright bills have companion bills in the state senate.
Interesting facts about the New York State Returnable Container Act of 1982, garnered from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation website among other sources, are as follows:
The law was updated in 2009 to include bottled water.
Vermont was the first state to pass a bottle bill, in 1953, prohibiting the sale of beer in non-refillable bottles.
How it works: Wegmans pays the Pepsi or Budweiser distributor 5 cents per can or bottle, then turns around and charges you 5 cents. Wegmans then receives a 3.5 cent handling fee from the distributor for each returned container.
The 2009 update required that 80% of unclaimed deposits be surrendered to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance. Prior to 2009, Pepsi and Budweiser distributors had been allowed to keep all of the unclaimed deposits. The Cahill bill as written raises the government’s take to 90%.
The redemption rate for beer bottles and cans (~ 75%) surpasses that of pop bottles and cans (~ 60%).
Only ten states and Guam have deposit programs. All are “blue” states, with the possible exceptions of Michigan and Iowa.
Total roadside litter is reduced by between 30% and 64% in the states with bottle bills, according to various studies.