Comprehensive Local Recycling Programs are a Better Alternative
In state after state across our nation it has been demonstrated that comprehensive recycling programs will recycle much more material, and at a significantly lower cost per ton, than a bottle deposit law. The same holds true for litter abatement programs. A comprehensive statewide program that addresses all litter, instead of just the small portion of litter represented by beverage containers, will reduce roadside litter by a much greater amount, and at a far smaller cost to the public, than mandating beverage container deposits.
In Michigan, proposals to expand the deposit law to cover non-carbonated beverages continue to be advocated by certain special interest groups. Since the deposit law has been so successful in recycling carbonated beverages, these groups claim it is a simple and logical next step to extend the law to all other beverages, including non-carbonated beverages. Unfortunately, we also know that Michigan’s recycling rate of 20% lags far behind the 30% recycling rate of our neighboring Great Lakes States (none of which has a deposit law), as well as behind the national average recycling rate of 33.2%. What the proponents of expanding deposits seem not to understand, however, is that expansion of the deposit law would have a negligible effect on this state’s overall recycling rate – indeed, at most it could increase our recycling rate by 1 to 2 percentage points – leaving us still far behind our neighboring states.
Because the implementation of Michigan’s deposit law is industry financed, its cost to the public is hidden in the overall price of the product. Even so, the public ends up paying the price for state mandated deposits. In Michigan, for example, one pays about 5 cents more per can of beverage than in our neighboring non deposit states. That adds up to a real out-of-pocket cost to our Michigan citizens in the range of $200 million per year.
Michigan will never have comprehensive recycling programs like other states unless we find a dedicated source of revenue the state can use to encourage and support comprehensive curbside and drop-off recycling at the local level. Your MSDA, working with a group of beverage distributors, food manufacturers, and retail grocery stores, called the Michigan Recycling Partnership, is promoting a very unique source of funding for municipal recycling — one not found anywhere yet in the nation. It would not be a tax, but a 1 cent transaction fee at the cash register each time a basket of goods exceeding $2 in value is purchased at retail. The fee would never be more than 1 cent, no matter how many items were purchased, or how large the final total amount of the purchase. It would apply to most retail sales of tangible goods, including food, but not to services, business to business transactions, or necessities such as utilities, prescription drugs, or motor fuel. The proposal would also have exemptions so as not to burden the very small retailers.
Statewide polling shows that more than 80% of the public supports the development of a statewide comprehensive recycling program. The public support for the transaction fee eclipses the public support for other recycling fees or taxes that have been proposed over the past few years by a margin of better than 2 to 1! The transaction fee could boost Michigan’s recycling rate to the average of our neighboring states. At the same time, it would create up to 13,000 new jobs in Michigan, and annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 400,000 vehicles off the road or saving 15,000 acres of rain forest per year.
Importantly, it would recycle 10 times more material tonnage at ½ the cost to Michigan citizens as compared to expanding the deposit law to non-carbonated beverages. It would be good for Michigan.