Michigan is well-known for its bottle return law, having been featured in a “Seinfeld” TV episode in which the characters try to drive a truck full of cans from New York to Michigan in order to cash in.
The state’s bottle deposit law was put in place in the 1970s as a means to reduce roadside litter and clean up the environment. And it’s working.
When purchasing a beverage in Michigan, the return price is tacked on to the sale. People then return the bottles and get their deposit back.
One look at our roadsides, as opposed to those of states without a deposit, and it’s clear that Michigan got it right with this law.
Michigan beverage distributors and bottlers are required to submit unredeemed deposits to the state.
According to the website bottlebill.org, 25 percent of unredeemed deposits in Michigan go to retailers, while the other 75 percent is retained by the state in a Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund. The fund is distributed as follows:
n 80 percent to the Cleanup and Redevelopment Fund, used to clean up specific sites of contamination in Michigan;
n 10 percent to the Community Pollution Prevention Fund, for educational programs on pollution prevention methods, technologies and processes, with an emphasis on the direct reduction of toxic material releases or disposal, at the source;
n 10 percent remains in the trust fund.
The recycling program sees strong participation annually. According to statistics from the state, the program typically sees an over 95 percent participation rate.
With this strong participation, it only makes sense for state officials to take a closer look at expanding the program. The bottle return law is limited to only a certain type of beverage container, and it’d be nice to see more included.
The number of people who drink energy drinks, juice, bottled water and other beverages is larger than ever. These items should also be allowed to participate in the beverage-recycling program.
It doesn’t seem like it would be too hard to implement, as the system for collecting beverage containers is already in place. All that would need to change would likely be a few computer adjustments for the bottle return machines to begin collecting more containers.
For the sake of the environment and keeping tons of plastic, aluminum and glass bottles out of landfills, the program should be broadened.
Grand Haven Tribune