By Matt Miner // Capitol Strategies Group // July 5, 2023
Lawmakers may begin looking to expand the state’s bottle deposit law after they return from their summer recess, with legislation set to be introduced that would expand the existing 10-cent deposit to include most non-carbonated beverages.
Democrats announced last week they plan to introduce legislation that would require the acceptance of all recyclable containers at places that take recycled bottles.
Similar legislation was introduced last session by Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) and Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Township), who announced last Thursday they were reintroducing the proposals.
The bills, when formally introduced, would require retailers to accept all non-carbonated beverage containers, excluding milk containers.
A bottle-handling fund would be created to reimburse distributors and dealers for each bottle.
McCann in a statement called the state’s 1970s bottle deposit law “iconic” and a mechanism that spurred conservation.
“There is no good reason that some of our plastic, glass and aluminum water bottles, and other single-use containers are not returnable when we have a functioning system that consumers and retailers are familiar with,” McCann said. “We must act to protect our future by expanding our beverage container recycling system to keep bottles and cans out of landfills now!”
Under the bills, funding would also be provided for audits and fraud enforcement. Also, $25 million would be provided yearly for dealing with contaminated sites.
“By updating our current bottle return system and adding additional incentives, we can continue to solidify Michigan as one of the leaders in our nation when it comes to bottle returns,” Morse said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Senator McCann and stakeholders to strengthen our return system and keep our environment clean.”
Andrea Bitely, vice president of marketing and communications for the Michigan Retailers Association, in a statement said the addition of more containers “only exacerbates the problems that the program currently has” and increases challenges to grocers and retailers that take back recyclables.
“Previous legislation to expand the number of containers would have caused WIC and SNAP recipients to encounter the $.10 bottle fee and offers no proof that expanding the bottle bill would actually increase Michigan’s all-time low recycling rates,” Bitely said. “Michigan residents would be better served by establishing more community recycling centers to safely dispose of containers, rather than continuing to trapse soiled pop cans through the same aisles where we purchase fresh food.”
Michigan is one of ten states and the territory of Guam to have bottle deposit laws and was one of the first to pass such a law, in 1976, via ballot initiative. Any effort to change the initiated act would take a two-thirds majority of the Legislature.
Under current law, 25 percent of deposits of bottles not returned by customers goes to grocers and retailers, with the rest going to the Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund.
The most recent statistics from the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy show $413.6 million in deposits were collected in 2021, with refunds totaling $311.8 million.
EGLE on its website states that Michigan does not gather statistics on beverage container return rates.
Last session legislation was passed to provide funding toward enforcement of the bottle deposit system, creating a Bottle Bill Enforcement Fund and additional record keeping of deposits (See Gongwer Michigan Report, December 9, 2021).