ALBANY — New York's business lobby and county governments are on opposite sides of the table in a clash over legislation that aims to shift the financial implications from recycling programs to packaging manufacturers.

The Business Council of New York warns that if the legislation is approved as written, it would lead to higher prices for consumers. Grocery bills would climb by anywhere from 4% to 6.5%, taking a major financial toll on low-income households, according to projections released by the Business Council.

Industries would face a projected $802 million in costs from the measure known as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act, according to a study by researchers at York University in Toronto the council is sharing with lawmakers.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky, D-Long Island, would make New York the first state in the nation to embrace the concept of making the producers of materials that become waste responsible for the costs of waste management.

Some provinces in Canada as well as nations in Europe have adopted the extended-producer approach to paying for recycling.

The costs that business groups find alarming are now being borne by local taxpayers who shoulder the responsibility of paying for the operation of landfills and recycling operations, said Stephen Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

"It doesn't seem fair for our taxpayers and our landfills to be subsidizing our manufacturers and corporations, and we need to have a dialogue with the business community to bring about a solution to recycling," Acquario told CNHI.

Recycling costs that have been escalating in the wake of a a diminished demand on the international market for solid waste material generated in the U.S., he said.

The Business Council, citing the York University study, says the legislation would cost the New York economy as much as $3 billion, given the ripple effect from higher costs imposed on companies doing business in the state. A wide range of companies, from Amazon, factory operators, paper companies and the newspaper publishing industry would all be negatively impacted, he said.

Pokalsky said the state should boost its investment in recycling infrastructure and promoting markets for recovered material.

"Our view is let's make the recycling system we have had for 30 years work better," Pokalsky said. "The EPR bill says we have to replace it and shift the responsibility. But we don't think that much work has to be done to improve the outcomes" from recycling efforts.

Pokalsky said the financial consequences of embracing such a proposal should be understood before major recycling legislation is considered.

Environmental activists support sticking producers with the financial responsibility for recycling, but argued the state needs to take a more vigorous approach to the problem than outlined in Kaminsky's bill.

"We do not feel this bill goes far enough to ensure the producers are held accountable and actually reduce the waste," said Liz Moran, environmental policy director for the New York Public Interest Research Group.

The legislation states there would be a funding mechanism that would provide incentives to reward producers for product design that reduce waste, increases the recyclability of products and removes toxins in packaging.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhinews.com

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