Michigan Democrats propose expanding bottle deposits to all beverages except milk

 

Michigan Democrats propose expanding bottle deposits to all beverages except milk

Plastic bottles sit in bins at Schupan Beverage Recycling in Grand Rapids on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017. The plant processes aluminum, plastic and glass bottle returns. (Neil Blake | MLive.com)

By Lauren Gibbons

Michigan residents have been paying 10-cent deposits on carbonated beverage bottles and cans for decades. Now, some state lawmakers want to expand that policy to most other beverage containers.

Currently, most soft drinks, beer and other carbonated beverages in containers under one gallon have a refundable 10-cent deposit tacked on at checkout. Consumers can bring back those containers for recycling and redeem that deposit, although stores aren’t required to redeem containers of products they don’t carry.

Legislation in the state House and Senate sponsored by Rep. Jon Hoadley and Sen. Sean McCann, both Kalamazoo Democrats, would expand the state’s existing bottle deposit program to include other beverage containers like tea, water, sports drinks and hard cider. The legislation would also allow for universal redemption at large stores.

In a statement announcing the bills, Hoadley and McCann said making changes to the initial law would help Michigan keep pace with changing consumption habits and the rise of single-use plastics.

“Michigan’s bottle deposit law is one our great state’s most successful policies,” McCann said in a statement. “This legislation would build on that success and lead to even greater participation.”

Environmental groups praised the proposal as an effective means to put more investment into pollution prevention and recycling programs while making it easier for consumers to recycle.

“With plastic pollution in the news almost daily, now is the time for Michigan to update our most effective pollution prevention law to meet modern consumer trends,” Sean Hammond, policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, said in a statement.

Some aren’t sold on the bottle deposit policy’s effectiveness, however.

Michigan retailers have historically been frustrated by the bottle deposit program. In a 2018 guest column for Bridge Magazine, Amy Drumm, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Retailers Association, wrote that the current policy places an unfair burden on grocery stores and prevents the state from having a comprehensive recycling policy.

Last session, Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, proposed repealing bottle deposits altogether, arguing the materials should be handled by community recycling programs. His proposal never advanced past the committee level.

Michigan is one of 10 states that maintains a bottle deposit program, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. According to Michigan Department of Treasury data, the rate of return on bottles and cans in Michigan is trending downward: in 2017, 91.2 percent of deposits were refunded, compared to 98.2 percent in 2007.

Kerrin O’Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition, said the current bottle deposit law provides good quality recyclable materials for manufacturing, and has been an useful tool for incentivizing consumers to recycle eligible containers.

But adding other plastics into that system would likely mean a loss of revenue for community recycling programs that currently handle those materials, she said.

“Those materials represent some value that helps to pay for the overall recycling system,” she said. “Taking some value out makes the economy of curbside recycling a little bit more challenging, and market challenges in recycling may be more difficult to bear.”

O’Brien said she’s hoping the legislation leads to broader conversations on how recycling programs can work more effectively together to increase participation and capture more recyclable material.

Hoadley and McCann’s bills - House Bill 5306 and Senate Bill 701 - would need to pass the House and Senate and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

Source: https://www.mlive.com