Bill to end bottle deposit law dies

ESCANABA — The bill State Rep. Beau LaFave introduced proposing to end Michigan’s 40-year-old bottle deposit law died earlier this year.

“The bottle deposit bill that was introduced last session died with the beginning of 2019,” he said. “I have no intention of bringing up or re-introducing the bill at this time.”

LaFave had introduced the bill because he felt it would have helped boost community recycling programs and relieve the strain put on local businesses that have return stations.

The Michigan Beverage Container Act, also known as the bottle bill, was enacted in 1976 and implemented in 1978 to reduce roadside litter, clean up the environment, and conserve energy and natural resources. The current bottle deposit law provides a 10 cent deposit for containers and beverages sold and redeemed by bottlers and distributors in Michigan.

LaFave said the goal of his bill was to increase recycling.

“I think the one thing the state of Michigan needs to do better at is recycling a lot of things that we currently just throw in landfills,” he said.

Michigan’s residential recycling rate is one of the lowest in the nation — sitting at 15 percent.

LaFave explained his bill was a way to make recycling easier for Michigan residents. He said aluminum cans are the most profitable in recyclable materials and the deposit bill takes that money out of community curbside recycling programs so it is difficult for recyclers to sustain these programs in communities throughout the Upper Peninsula.

“What I think we need to do is make sure that everyone realizes that the goal is not to just get rid of the bottle deposit law — that certainty wasn’t my intent to begin with. The goal was to make curbside recycling available everywhere that garbage pick-up is available curbside today,” he said.

LaFave said right now with the current bottle deposit law, there is no guarantee the returns are actually being recycled.

“I want to make sure the material is being reused because I think it’s better for the viability of our landfills and it’s probably better for our environment as well,” he said.

The legislation, House Bill 6532-36, was referred to the House Michigan Competitiveness Committee for consideration in December.

LaFave explained when the bill was submitted to the committee it never got a hearing and wasn’t really discussed. He said the bill then died at the start of 2019.

“Every bill died at the stroke of midnight for 2019,” he said.

If the bill had been passed into law the bottle deposit would have ended on Dec. 31, 2022 and bottles purchased before that date could have been returned for deposit but lose the refund on Dec. 31, 2025.

LaFave said he does not have plans on re-introducing the bill at this time, but may consider it after curbside recycling programs are implemented statewide everywhere garbage curbside pick-up is available and an analysis shows money could be saved through the elimination of the bottle deposit law.

The first step though is different funding options, like grants, need to be looked into for the communities that need help with implementing a curbside recycling program, he said.