Albany, NY – New York may be raking in millions in unclaimed bottle deposits, but according to Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, lax enforcement of the 1982 bottle law should be bringing even more money into the state’s coffers.
The results of a recently released audit conducted by DiNapoli’s office claimed that from April 2014 through February 2017 the Department of Taxation and Finance failed to do its part to enforce the Returnable Container Act, which states that deposit initiators, which include distributors, beverage bottlers and certain stores that sell deposit bottles, are required to register with the state and file the quarterly reports which allow the state to calculate its share of the unclaimed deposits.
But according to the audit, 39 of the state’s active deposit initiators failed to file any quarterly reports during the period studied, with another eight missing at least one report. Other irregularities showed questionable redemption amounts and percentages.
The audit also noted that while the Department of Taxation and Finance did send warning notices to those who were delinquent in their reports, no further actions were taken and no penalties were ever issued.
By law, deposit initiators keep 20 percent of all unclaimed deposits, while the state receives the remaining 80 percent, with $23 million of the state’s take earmarked for the Environmental Protection Fund and the remainder going to the state’s General Fund. Billions of deposit bottles go unreturned each year, with the state collecting $212.2 million in unclaimed deposits in 2015 and 2016 combined.
DiNapoli called on the Department of Taxation and Finance to implement procedures to verify the accuracy of the reports filed, to monitor deposit initiators to ensure that accurate reports are filed and to ensure that penalties are assessed and collected when necessary.
“My auditors found the state Department of Taxation and Finance’s oversight over the program can be improved so environmental programs are not getting shortchanged,” said DiNapoli. “The department needs to do a better job collecting the money that could be used to protect and preserve our state’s natural resources, parkland, waterways and beaches.”
The Returnable Container Act was passed 25 years ago to encourage recycling and reduce waste. By state law, all deposit initiators are required to collect a five cent deposit on smaller than gallon-sized containers of soda, beer, water, wine products and certain other beverages.