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Advocates call for a 50% reduction in excess packaging

 Senator Rachel May, D- Syracuse,  addresses advocates in favor of reducing excess packaging and expanding the state's bottle bill, at the NYS Capitol, on February 15, 2023
Karen DeWitt NYS Public Radio
Senator Rachel May, D- Syracuse, addresses advocates in favor of reducing excess packaging and expanding the state's bottle bill, at the NYS Capitol, on February 15, 2023

Advocates for plastic waste reduction and an expanded bottle bill rallied at the Capitol Wednesday for the state to reduce excess packaging on retail items by 50% by 2033. They say a plan by Governor Kathy Hochul to reduce packaging falls short.

Governor Hochul, in her state budget plan, proposes reducing packaging waste by 15% over the next ten years. Environmental groups say that goal is too modest, and that the state should instead adopt a bill circulating in the legislature that would require excess packaging on all products to be reduced by 50% by 2033.

The Senate sponsor, Rachel May, is also carrying a measure to expand the state’s 40 year old bottle bill to add non-carbonated beverages, wine, and liquor. It would also raise the deposit from five cents to ten cents.

May spoke to advocates gathered at the Capitol’s ornate 'million dollar' staircase.

“These bills are common sense. It's just ridiculous that we assume that we're just going to throw things away and they're going to go away,” said May.

And she says it costs New Yorkers money, in the form of taxes and payments to private garbage collection companies to pay for waste collection and recycling.

“ It's ridiculous that producers and businesses assume they can just send us massive amounts of junk that we're going to then throw away and our municipalities are going to pay the cost of dealing with the waste and the recycling, “ May said. “Which does not pay for itself anymore.”

Judith Enck, a former EPA Regional Administrator who now heads Bennington College’s Beyond Plastics, says the overuse of plastics pollutes the oceans, and is also dangerous on land. She says the recent train crash in Ohio, which leaked an array of toxic chemicals and caused a huge fire and mass evacuation, is just one example.

“The train cars that blew up, were carrying liquid vinyl chloride. That's a toxic monomer used to make PVC plastic,” Enck said. “It's used to make clear plastic packaging, plastic toys, plastic shower curtains.”

She said that people in Ohio and Pennsylvania are paying the price of the failure to enact packaging reduction rules.

Enck and other supporters say they are “outgunned and outnumbered” by industry giants like the American Chemical Council, the fossil fuel industry, and big supermarket chains as well as Amazon and McDonalds, who are against the proposal.

“This is David vs. Goliath on steroids,” Enck said.

But advocates are hopeful. They said there’s widespread public support for packaging reduction laws, and they said the measures are gaining support among lawmakers.

Backers of the proposal also said Hochul’s plan should be removed from the state budget, and discussed as a separate issue so that the governor and legislature have more time to work out the details of a stronger bill.

Copyright 2023 WXXI News. To see more, visit WXXI News.