Traverse City Record-Eagle

Our Views

September 27, 2013

Editorial: Bizarre new recycling law would undermine bottle bill

Michigan has unveiled a new plan to increase the state’s dismal recycling rate, but it does so by undermining one of the most successful recycling efforts in the nation’s history. To call it bizarre is too kind.

Under the proposal, retailers might be allowed to opt out of accepting bottle and can returns.

Some grocery and party store owners — many of whom have complained bitterly about the bottle law since the day it passed in 1976 — will immediately get out of the recycling business. They’ll still be allowed to sell profitable soft drinks and beer by the case but won’t be obligated to take the bottles and cans back to be recycled.

Instead, the state Department of Environmental Quality suggests the creation of what it calls “redemption centers” where people could take bottles, cans and other recyclable materials such as paper, metal, glass and plastic.

Never mind that many Michigan residents already have curbside recycling. In the DEQ’s vision, they’ll bundle their bottles, cans and other recycling and schlep off to the redemption center, just another Saturday errand. Oh, joy.

“This is not an effort to undo Michigan’s bottle bill,” DEQ spokesman Brad Wurfel said. To many watchers, however, that is exactly what it is.

Strangely enough, the group that represents retailers who deal with all those bottles and cans says the bottle law is not a problem.

According to the Michigan Grocers Association, retailers don’t object to the bottle law and would actually like to see more recycling of containers of other beverages such as water, iced tea and juice, something environmental groups have been advocating for years.

Michigan’s bottle law works, and always has. According to the Michigan Recycling Coalition, an estimated 97 percent of containers covered by the law are returned. Will that number go up when consumers have to haul their empties to a “redemption center” instead of dropping them off when they go shopping? Hardly.

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