2017-05-04 / Columns

Bottle Bill a Success in Michigan

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

Michigan is among 10 states that have a so-called “bottle bills” recycling program and it has been highly successful in reducing litter here, although proposed for change in some states.

In Michigan, we pay a 10-cent deposit at retail outlets upon purchasing airtight metal, glass, paper, or plastic containers under a gallon. We get the dimes back upon bringing the containers to a redemption center or retail outlet.

The Michigan system, enacted in 1976 and implemented in 1978, was designated as the Michigan Container Act.

As a longtime frequent driver of rural roads, I can testify to success in litter reduction across the northern landscape.

The Associated Press reported last week that Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Iowa “are among the states where bills have been proposed to replace the bottle deposits with a tax. Supporters say the tax revenue could support recycling that did not exist when the bottle redemption systems were introduced.”

As the AP said, “Some fear people will be more likely to toss their empties if they’re no longer worth cash.”

Those fears are well founded. As Louis Burch, the Connecticut program director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said of the current system:

“This is the most effective, proven way that we have to guarantee that these containers do not end upon our streets and do not end up on our beaches and open spaces as litter. “

In 1971, Oregon became the first state to pass a bottle bill. Since then, Michigan joined Hawaii, California, Iowa, Vermont, New York, Maine, Connecticut, and Massachusetts in passing plans that vary on types of beverage containers and the deposit amounts.

Kevin Dietly, an economic consultant to the American Beverage Association, said there is no evidence that litter is any worse in Delaware since it ended its bottle bill in 2010.

But, having tracked this issue over the years from its outset, it is my belief that it would be much worse in Michigan if it ended its bottle bill.

Reflections on Michigan’s U.S. Senators

Michigan from the outset has had many notable U.S. senators, certainly including Democrat Lewis Cass (1845-48), a former territorial governor who is one of the biggest names in Michigan history, Republican Arthur Vandenberg (1928-1951), instrumental in U.S. foreign affairs, and Philip A. Hart (1959-76). A Senate office building is named after him.

Since Hart, our senators have been Republican Robert P, Griffin, Democrat Donald W. Riegle, Democrat Carl Levin, and, currently, Democrats Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters. Both have been champions on Great Lakes issues.

An interesting Detroit News story said recently retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr. “is being lobbied” to run against Stabenow in 2018 as she seeks a fourth term.

Former Republican State Chairman Dave Doyle said the 66-year old Detroit native would “be a fantastic candidate. He is a tremendous legal mind, showed that as chief justice of the Supreme Court he could work very well not only with his conservative colleagues on the bench, but also with his liberal colleagues.”

Young, the court’s fourth’s African-American justice, said upon his recent retirement after 18 years on the Supreme Court that his plan was to return to private practice.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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