On May 18th, a formal lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of the expanded New York “Bottle Bill,” scheduled to take effect next month. The lawsuit was filed by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), Nestle Waters North America (NWNA) and Polar Beverages in an effort to reform the labeling requirement associated with the legislation.
Environmental advocate, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., owner of bottled water company Keeper Springs, has also signed an affidavit in support of the lawsuit.
The Returnable Container Act (RCA), referred to as the Bottle Bill, was originally passed in 1982 to encourage recycling and reduce litter and waste associated with bottles. It requires a five cent deposit when purchasing certain bottled beverages, a deposit that consumers could be refunded by returning empty bottles to retailers.
The expansion of the existing bottle deposit law would require bottled water companies to affix a UPC bar code to bottles sold in New York, which the filing parties argue impedes interstate commerce as the bottles would be permitted from sale in other states.
Plaintiffs also argue that the new Bottle Bill exempts bottled water products to which sugar has been added, such as sport drinks, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In a statement released on Tuesday, IBWA expressed its concern for the amount of time given to comply with new regulations. The new Bottle Bill, set to take effect June 1, provides less than 60 days for bottled water companies to comply with the new labeling requirements. The original law, according to IBWA, provided soft drink and beer industries 15 months to comply.
“We would prefer that the legislature fix these problems, but the deadline is fast approaching and we need to ensure that we will still be able to provide bottled water to our customers,” said Nestle Waters CEO Kim Jeffrey. “All over the country, there are good examples of bottle bills that work for consumers and for the environment. We don’t need to settle for one that discourages both healthy choices and environmental stewardship.”