Michigan May (and Should) Add 10 Cent Deposit to Water and Juice Bottles

Yesterday, the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) announced a plan to extend Michigan’s 10 cent deposit law (the first in the nation) to also apply to water, tea, and juice bottles.

Here’s some statistics:

  • Michiganders return 97% of pop/beer bottles/cans.
  • Michiganders recycle only 20% of other bottles.

Executive Director of MUCC Dennis Muchmore told the Detroit Free Press, “Bottled water and sports drinks weren’t around when voters approved Michigan’s deposit law in 1976 [which MUCC pushed strongly for].  It’s time for Michigan to step back to the plate.”  His goal is to get the legislation passed before the legislature breaks for the Independence Day holiday.

But passing the law may not come as easily as Muchmore wants.  Ed Deeb, president of the Michigan Food and Beverage Association said, “We won’t stand for it.  We’ve had enough of the bottle deposit law.  Grocery stores should not be rubbish collectors or recycling centers.”

Linda Grobler, the president of the Michigan Grocers Association, argues that many people bring back filthy bottles which then have to be cleaned, and that some people illegally bring in out of state recyclables to get the deposit money.  Well, I know that the latter is not true.  My family takes vacations out of state every year, and every once in a while, we’ll accidentally bring a bottle or can back to Michigan that we bought in another state, not remembering it was from out of state, and when we take it back, the machine won’t accept it.  Mrs. Grobler, I don’t buy your lie, so find a new argument.

But Grobler and Deeb could have their way if the bill is amended.  Instead of going for conservationism, legislators may weaken the current bill.  Muchmore hopes to keep this from happening, saying, “If it’s going to be amended, we’re going to defend it, and even take an offensive posture [by adding water, juice, and tea bottles to the bill].”

So, who stands where?  A MUCC poll shows that 75% of Michiganders support it, but Andy Such, a lobbyist for the Michigan Bottled Water Council, said “Our concern is for the retailers,” but he doesn’t know how hard they’ll fight an amendment to the bill.

If the amendment doesn’t pass the legislature, where it would need 3/4 approval in both chambers, a ballot initiative could appear on a future ballot.  James Clift, policy director of the Michigan Environmental Council, told the Free Press, “I think it would pass easily.”

Here’s a press release from MUCC:


LANSING—The Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) today announced a major initiative to expand the state’s 32-year-old Bottle Bill to include water and other non-carbonated beverage containers.

The 50,000-member, non-profit MUCC seeks to duplicate the 1976 grassroots campaign that made Michigan the national poster child for recycling beer and soda pop containers. Eleven other states have current or pending legislation for container-deposit recycling, and a growing number include bottled water. Last week, for example, New York’s General Assembly voted to add non-carbonated containers to its required deposit list.

“It’s time for Michigan to step back to the plate,” said Dennis Muchmore, MUCC Executive Director. “Although our citizens now return 97 percent of the 5 and a half- billion bottles and cans for which they pay a deposit, they recycle only 20 percent of the bottled water containers because no deposit is required. Eighty percent of those empty containers end up in landfills or critical wildlife habitats. It’s a terrible waste.”

According to the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), in 2005 each Michigan resident bought an average of 338 bottles and cans of soda pop and 138 containers of water and other non-carbonated beverages. More than 1.1 billion of the latter were thrown away instead of being recycled.

National trend data from the CRI shows that within a few years, sales of non-carbonated drinks will exceed pop sales.

“We can, and must, do better,” Muchmore added. “Adding a ten-cent deposit to bottled water creates a win-win situation for everyone.”

How so? Recycling the containers reduces litter and saves money and energy while increasing the number of Michigan jobs. The annual energy savings alone for bottles and cans of pop and beer is equivalent to 450,000 barrels of oil, enough to fuel 150,000 cars for a month. There are economic advantages as well. According to the Michigan Recycling Coalition, annual sales of recycled commodities are nearly $2 billion. The industry employs more than 5,000 people who earn $137 million each year.

MUCC believes Michigan citizens are proud of their Bottle Bill and are ready to expand it. A 2003 survey revealed that 64 percent supported a deposit on water and other non-carbonated containers. Only 16 percent opposed expansion, and 19 percent were not sure.

“Voters” are even more supportive with 76 percent favoring the concept. Given such positive feedback, from Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike, why isn’t Michigan’s Bottle Bill all-inclusive now?

Muchmore says more than political will is involved. “Timing is everything,” he said, “and because legislation to change the current law is suddenly pending, it makes sense to include bottled water in any new bill heading to the Governor’s desk for signature.”

Bills introduced in both the state house and senate seek to reduce the amount of fraudulent returns to merchants. MUCC supports the proposed changes, which were initiated by a coalition of the Michigan Beer & Wine Association, the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, and the Michigan Grocers Association. But the state’s largest conservation organization of hunters and anglers wants to take a bigger step forward.

“We simply want to amend the pending legislation to include bottled water and other non-carbonated containers,” Muchmore explained. “Right now Michigan can reduce fraudulent deposit returns, increase recycling, supplement the economy with new jobs, and reduce litter in our lakes, streams and other critical wildlife habitats.”

Reducing the amount of litter has long been an important issue for Michigan taxpayers, who pay $5.5 million per year to clean up water bottles and other trash from the state’s roadways. The current Bottle Bill has shown that when containers carry a deposit, people pick them up for free.

“That’s why we’re asking Michigan citizens to contact their state senator and representative to make these changes now,” Muchmore said. “We only have two weeks.”

The legislation comes to a vote in late June. Changing the existing Bottle Bill requires a 75 percent super-majority in each chamber (29 of 38 senate votes, 83 of 110 house votes).

Muchmore said bottled water, sport drinks and other popular beverages weren’t around in 1976. “They’re here now and more are being consumed every year,” he said. “Michigan citizens have an opportunity to do what’s right, and time is of the essence.”

So, what do I think?

I like the idea, and here’s why:

  1. We need to recycle more.
    1. It’s just good for the environment, and although I’m not a “tree hugger,” being green sometimes doesn’t hurt.
    2. We’re running out of landfill space here in Wayne County.  We’re bringing in too much trash from Canada (including our current Governor) and throwing too much away.  If we could recycle more, it’d be cheaper for cities in the long run.
  2. My parents let me have the deposit money if I take the cans back, and like any good Republican/Libertarian, I like my money (or other people’s money in my pockets [only if it’s there legally of course]).  People give out free water bottles all the time – it’s an opportunity for me to make some more money.  It’s a purely selfish reason, but if it came up as an initiative, I’d sign the petition and vote for it.

I don’t know if this proposed amendment would apply to cans of juice (such as lemonade), which for the most part do not have deposits on them now (I know that Kroger’s lemonade cans do, but most don’t).

Alright – I’d like to hear your comments.  I only have one rule.  This is a Michigan blog, so I don’t want to hear the use of “soda” or “soda pop” – the proper term is just “pop.”  I’m a stubborn Michigander, I know.

Done Ranting,

Ranting Republican
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8 Responses to “Michigan May (and Should) Add 10 Cent Deposit to Water and Juice Bottles”

  1. Calvin Says:

    I lived in Michigan the first half of my life and Florida for the second half of my life (with a 3 year stop in Georgia). I in Michigan deposits were in place. Florida does not have deposits. I have NO DOUBT, based upon my own observations, that if the goal is to recycle, deposits work. (I have no opinion as to whether the Michigan system is cost effective.) If w had deposits in Florida, I doubt I would find empty pop, water and beer cans on the beach.

    As for calling it pop, I must admit that I have been converted to using the other less desirable term. I went down kicking and screaming, but I did ultimately turn on my Michigander roots. I could say it was my cracker husband that converted me, but in actuallity it was the stupified look on the server’s face when I asked what type of pop they served.

  2. inkslwc Says:

    Well, thank you for not using the s-word on my blog. I work at a tourist attraction (I won’t say exactly where), and somebody will order a soft drink and I’ll ask, “What size pop do you want?” And some just look at me like I spoke Chinese. I’ve switched over to saying soft drink most of the time at work, but I’ll always be a “pop” guy.

    You do bring up a good point – beaches. As with any beaches, there’s always some recyclables (and trash) left at beaches here in Michigan, but thinking back, Michigan’s beaches do seem to be cleaner (if you don’t count areas along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers) – such as Lake Erie or up near Port Huron, or up at Traverse City (such a beautiful place to go).

  3. Bob Says:

    I think the added deposit is long over-due. In addition to increasing the number of bottles being recycled the added cost might convince some people to just start drinking tap water thereby reducing the impact on the environment beyond the direct effect of litter.

  4. Kevin Says:

    plus people with bridge cards can buy waters and take the bottles back for real money, instead of having to rely on caffeine drinks to get a couple bucks back

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