Another attempt to expand Michigan’s bottle bill

23 Jul 2013

   I admit that I have always been proud of Michigan’s Beverage Container Deposit Law (the “bottle bill”).  When I lived in North Carolina, every time I saw a discarded soda or beer can on the side of the road I would cringe and think about how that wouldn’t happen in Michigan.  Over the years, however, it has been disappointing that the bottle bill hasn’t been expanded to include beverage containers that have become increasingly popular over the last 20 years (e.g., water, juice, sports drink and energy drink containers). 

Michigan’s bottle bill currently covers carbonated and alcoholic beverages that come in any airtight metal, glass, paper, or plastic container (or a combination) under 1 gallon.  In 1988, the law was amended to include wine coolers and canned cocktails, and in 2012, it was amended to specifically exempt frozen pouch drinks. 

The stated purpose of Michigan’s bottle bill is to reduce roadside litter, clean up the environment, and conserve energy and natural resources.    Given this purpose and the fact that beverage containers may negatively impact the Great Lakes, it is unfortunate that every effort to expand the bottle bill (such as this one) to include non-carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage containers has failed.  I was therefore happy to hear that, once again, legislation to expand the bottle bill had been introduced in the Michigan Senate.  The proposed amendment would expand the 10 cent deposit and return on bottles to include noncarbonated water and nonalcoholic carbonated or noncarbonated drinks (with a specific exception for unflavored rice milk, unflavored soymilk, milk and other dairy derived products).

For an interesting weighing of the pros and cons of bottle deposit programs see this extensive analysis conducted for Maryland by the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, in partnership with the Center for Integrative Environmental Research and ECONorthwest.  The report ultimately concludes that if Maryland chose to move in the direction of a deposit program, it should establish the most effective deposit rate (10 cents per container) and that it should cover as may different container types as possible.    

Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Reply