State Rep wants to end Michigan's bottle deposit law

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A bill has been introduced to put an end to returning bottles for money in Michigan.

"I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of talk on this legislation," said Rep. Joe Bellino. "You would have thought I was building a wall between Toledo and Monroe County, but I'm not."

The lawmaker out of Monroe is proposing ending Michigan's 40-year-old bottle deposit law. The current law allows Michigan residents to return bottles and cans in exchange for cash.

"I've got to admit, I voted for the bill in 1976, that was the first time I voted," Bellino said. "I voted for that bill and I voted for Jimmy Carter. I missed it on the bottle bill. I'm still sorting bottles today."

Bellino thinks community recycling programs would get a boost if bottle returns no longer had a deposit you get back at the store and instead you just recycle outside your home.

"As a state in Michigan, we stink at recycling," he said. "That is one point where I think we can agree. The state of recycling in the state is abysmal."

Both Bellino and Michigan Environmental Council agree that as a state, Michigan could do better when it comes to recycling overall but the bottle deposit law isn't just about recycling.

"There is a lot of focus around recycling at this point," said Sean Hammond, Michigan Environmental Council Deputy Director. "We've got to remember the bottle bill was initially created as a pollution prevention initiative. So the fact that we don't have plastic bottles, aluminum cans, glass bottles on our beaches, in our rivers, lakes and streams, that is all due to the bottle bill."

Some say it keeps the streets clean. And don't forget the stores where you get your deposit back. The law has meant time and money for them.

"As a retailer, this would really help my bottom line," said Tom Violante, founder of Holiday Market. "If you notice these bottle machines, they are very expensive, they are expensive to maintain, and then I have a person on an hourly basis, come here and police the area."

Under this plan, the state's bottle deposit law would end in 2022. Bellino says the legislation has been submitted but has not been assigned to a committee, so it'll probably be a while before we see substantive debate on the bill.