Legislation to expand Michigan’s 43-year-old bottle deposit law and increase recycling amid growing use of single-use plastics was met with opposition by a statewide group representing retailers and grocery stores who said the bills would do little to improve “Michigan’s dismal recycling rate.”
The Michigan Retailers Association announced its opposition shortly after lawmakers introduced House Bill 5306 and Senate Bill 701, which would expand the state’s 10-cent refundable deposit to include all other non-carbonated beverages covered under the current law. The proposed bills exempt milk containers.
Bill sponsors Rep. Jon Hoadley and Sen. Sean McCann, both Kalamazoo Democrats, say modernizing the “Bottle Bill” is necessary to bolster recycling rates and reduce pollution, particularly as the use of single-use plastics increases.
In a statement, McCann called the bottle deposit law — enacted in 1976 to reduce litter and direct funding to environmental cleanup programs — “one of our state’s most successful policies.”
The bills would permit universal redemption and allow residents to take any recyclable bottle to stores. They would also create a “bottle handling fund” to reimburse distributors and dealers on a per-bottle basis, open funding for fraud enforcement, and direct $25 million a year to fix contaminated sites.
Ten states have bottle deposit laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, and Michigan’s 10-cent rate is among the highest in the country. Some states’ rates vary based on the size and type of beverage.
On a broader scale, the state and local governments have taken a variety of actions in recent years meant to boost recycling rates. In his last State of the State speech in 2018, former Gov. Rick Snyder said his attempt to double the state’s recycling rate “has probably one of the most disappointing initiatives I’ve had in my time as governor.”
The Retailers Association says the existing law “places a burden” on the grocery industry with already thin profit margins, claiming in a statement that an expansion “could lead to the closure of neighborhood grocery stores.”
“We believe that a comprehensive recycling plan is needed to improve Michigan’s 15 percent recycling rate — the worst among the Great Lakes states,” according to the Retailers Association.
The Michigan Recycling Partnership, which represents recycling and composting interests, also opposes the bills, saying it fails to account for most recyclable material in Michigan. The existing law also removes valuable recyclables like aluminum and certain plastics that could be revenue for local recycling programs, according to the group.
“We hope the introduction of this legislation will prompt a serious conversation about the future of recycling in Michigan that looks beyond the bottle deposit law at reforms that will truly make a difference at increasing Michigan’s low overall recycling rate,” the Michigan Recycling Partnership said in a statement.
However, the bills are drawing support from the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which say an update is needed to reflect consumer trends.
“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, Michigan Environmental Council’s policy director, said in a statement. “These changes also allow for more investment in pollution prevention and response, and for the first time from the bottle bill escheats into recycling programs.”