Saying you’re green is easy. Turning environmental aspirations into legislation is another matter, as is proved every March during state budget negotiations in Albany. Some initiatives spring suddenly to life, some die mysteriously, others linger in legislative purgatory. It’s happening again. Ten days before the April 1 deadline for an on-time budget, several worthy proposals are being debated that would great help our environment.
Food waste: For two years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed in vain a plan to reduce the huge amount of food wasted in New York and to help feed the hungry. He left it out of this year’s budget proposal, but the Senate, formerly the obstacle, included it in its one-house budget. In the plan, supermarkets, hospitals and other big generators of excess food would have to donate edible items to hunger-relief organizations and recycle the rest. Cuomo is ready to jump back on board; the Assembly must bring it home.
Plastic bag ban: Another way to reduce obscene waste. Cuomo wants a ban on plastic bags and would give municipalities the option to charge a fee for paper bags. The Senate’s plan would make the paper fee mandatory, the best way to promote reusable totes and reduce litter. But if the up-to-now resistant Assembly is willing to budge only on the plastic bag ban, negotiators should take it to keep moving the ball forward.
Bottle bill: Cuomo’s plan to add nickel deposits on glass, plastic and aluminum containers for beverages like sports and energy drinks and ready-to-drink iced teas and coffees is suddenly hot, but it’s complicated. Recycling is in crisis, sparked by China raising standards for recyclables. Cuomo’s plan would further hurt municipal recycling programs by removing plastics that still have value. Other proposals would add wines and spirits to the bottle bill, to get more glass out of curbside recycling to reduce the contamination issues they present. Another option is to hike the nickel fee to increase participation. Albany should be able to both increase recycling and keep recyclers in business. If that can be done properly in the budget process, great. If not, punt it to the rest of the session. It’s that important.