Time to expand the state bottle return program

Go to any grocery store in the state and you’ll be certain to see people coming in with carts full of cans and bottles to return for 10 cents each.
Oct 1, 2013

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:
- 80 percent to the Cleanup and Redevelopment Fund, used to clean up specific sites of contamination in Michigan;
- 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;
- 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.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Alex Doty and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.



They should do the same thing with dog food. Charge a deposit of $1.00 per bag. Then when the owner picks up the mess they leave in my front yard they can return it and get their $1.00 back!


Ha...that's funny.

Think about all those nasty cans and bottles going into backrooms where your food comes from. They should have return centers that are not in the same building that our food comes from.


One expansion to think about is tuning the oft broken machines to honor the deposit even if you didn't buy the item at that store i.e. you buy Sam’s sparkling soda and you can only return them at Wal-Mart.
We go from Wal-Mart to Meijer’s or we simply leave a few on the counter in the Wal-Mart roach hotel (for its ever sticky and smelly floor in the return room).
It’s not like the old school glass bottles in wooden crates that were cleaned and reused, the plastic bottles are recycled as plastic so who cares where they are recycled from?


Why are the non-carbonated drinks (Minutemaid Lemonade, etc...) not required to have a return deposit? They are the same bottles as carbonated drinks.


It's a shame that people are so lazy about throwing away their waste properly that there needs to be a program like this in the first place. The bottles aren't reused anyway, and most of the populace lives in an area with recycling programs, so why people couldn't just be trusted to recycle, if they can, and throw in the landfill trash otherwise, is beyond me.


I agree, but then again it was the same attitude that brought us speed bumps. Some people are self-centered and lazy…they won't make the effort to take an empty bottle or cup from their car to their own trash can so they toss it out for someone else to deal with, I pick up litter from my front yard a couple times a week, even more when there are workers for the M231 by-pass about.


We (Expand Michigan's Bottle Bill) are a small grassroots effort dedicated to updating Michigan's bottle bill. We are thankful that the Grand Haven Tribune has taken this stance and published it. You can join our cause by liking us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/expandMIbottlebill.


Expanding container deposits is not the answer. There are numerous examples of comprehensive recycling and litter programs and practices in other states that have proven to recycle more material and reduce litter, for substantially less money out of the taxpayers' pocketbooks than deposit schemes.
Remember, all recycling and litter-control programs have costs that eventually are passed on to our citizens, either through government taxes, user fees or higher prices for your products.
For example, in addition to the dime deposit, the current Michigan deposit law costs the Michigan consumer about 5 cents more per container than in our neighboring nondeposit states, or some $200 million per year. Expanding deposits to water and juice would cost our citizens up to another $60 to $100 million per year.
Why is it that Michigan citizens and taxpayers already pay more for recycling than any of our neighboring Great Lakes states, yet those states' average recycling rate is 50 percent greater than Michigan's (and none of them have a deposit law)?
How can anyone who is genuinely interested in recycling or litter abatement advocate expanding Michigan's deposit law to noncarbonated beverages, when for the same cost to Michigan citizens they could recycle 10 to 15 times more material through comprehensive curbside and drop-off programs? The savings in greenhouse gas emissions also would be huge.
Let's be careful stewards for both the environment and taxpayers' funds, and at the same time, do more for less! Be comprehensive, not narrow and limited.


This is really interesting. I like the idea but do you have more information on what these more comprehensive programs entail?

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