Are You Happy With Michigan’s Bottle Bill?

So this week I’m in West Virginia, to speak at a Nature Conservancy conference on the power of social media. Hint: You should retweet this story.

And I’ve noticed that the folks in West Virginia are really friendly. They say “Hi” and they seem to mean it. Maybe that’s because I’m in “the holler,” as the cab driver said on my way here this morning. But despite their overt happiness, the people of WVA still don’t have a bottle bill. They just throw away the bottles and cans.

Now I was awed on the way here, in a two-hour ride from Pittsburgh, with the beauty of the rolling mountain scenery in the wild and wonderful state. John Denver had it right. And I can’t stop humming “Country Roads.”

On the cover of today’s Charleston Gazette is a story featuring Unknown Environmentalists, lots of them, with brown paper bags over their heads.

The story is about efforts by a local group called Pick Up America, which staged at a rally at the state Capitol to push for a 5-cent deposit on beverage containers. In Michigan, we have a 10-cent deposit. And I’ll admit it’s a pain to reclaim my 10 cents, but it (usually) keeps me honest and encourages recycling.

Which makes me wonder: Do you appreciate Michigan’s 10-cent law, and think it should even be expanded to non-carbonated beverages (water and juice)? I, for one, am happy to have it, despite the hassle. And to think, West Virginia, the second-largest coal-producing state, is quibbling about a nickel.

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  1. I hate the Michigan 10-cent law. As an encouragement for recycling, it’s more of a ransom. Then, you always have other bottles and cans that aren’t covered by it anyway. When I’m standing in front of the bottle counting machines at Meijer and I find a few bottles that they won’t accept for one reason or another, do I take it back home? No. I leave them there in a buggy and then walk silently away like everyone else does; I presume the store throws all these non-returnables out.

    And, it’s just a pain in the rear to have to sort it all out at home. In most of metro-Detroit, we have curbside recycling, and I use it diligently. It’s easy. I just throw the empty containers in the box all week, then walk it to my curb once a week. My taxes pay for this. It’s so easy, that I’ve started getting lazy about putting the returnables in a separate bag for driving back to the store and I usually just throw them in with the other various plastic, glass and metal containers. So, effectively, the Michigan 10-cent law is more to me a tax on soft drinks and beer, but a tax that the stores collect and don’t need to give over to the state. That seems dumb, so promulgating it to more containers and more states seems more dumb if these same states are also pursuing curbside and public recycling programs.

    What I’d like to see more of is what I’ve seen start to happen in some areas of the U.S., but has been in existence in The Netherlands and Germany for ages: more public recycling containers and then guilt the heck out of people to use them. We’ve done it before (remember the crying Native American in front of the field of trash). Or, for others, since not everyone responds to weepy green marketing in the same way, explain to them how this saves them time and money (e.g. no more bagging and driving and sorting and counting and…). This combined with continued curbside collection is a smarter long-term play.

  2. I despise the bottle program. Before, I lived in Illinois and recycled every single one of my bottles and cans without any extra incentive. Now, living in Michigan, I have to wait in line at the grocery store in a room smelling of stale beer, hoping the people in front of me don’t fill up the machine before I can use it.

    Then, I reach into my sticky bag of cans, and load them into the machine one by one, hoping that I’m not the one to fill it up. If it fills up, it refuses to take anything more. If no more machines are available, you wait until staff from the store comes to fix it, or you get frustrated and throw your recycling into the trash. If I mistakenly bring some Kroger bottles to Meijer, they aren’t accepted. I rarely go to Trader Joe’s so my bottles from there have been sitting in my apartment over a month.

    After a sporting event, a line of bums each with hundreds of cans forms outside the Kroger. Police monitor them each time at taxpayer expense. The law gives them some money for performing a public service, but it seems absurd that grocery stores have to deal with this.

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