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Great Lakes Article:

Senate task force offers proposals to increase recycling
By Kathy Barks Hoffmand
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. -- Plastic water bottles would have to be recycled and Michigan residents could see slightly higher trash disposal fees if recommendations from a state Senate task force are adopted.

The report by the Michigan Beverage Container and Recycling Task Force does not recommend expanding the state's current bottle deposit law to other containers at this time, however.

Instead, it recommends setting up two regional recycling centers as pilot projects and increasing overall recycling efforts. The regional recycling centers could be a step toward allowing grocery stores to get out of the business of serving as bottle redemption centers.

The task force wants to increase household and commercial garbage disposal fees by $3 per ton, allowing the state to raise about $50 million to help local recycling programs.

The cost, if passed along to consumers, would be no more than "the cost of a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread a year," task force chairman Cameron Brown said during a news conference Wednesday at which the report was released.

The Republican senator from Sturgis added that Michigan now ranks 28th nationally with a recycling rate of about 20 percent, the lowest percentage among neighboring Great Lakes states and far lower than New Jersey's recycling rate of more than 50 percent. He'd like to make the state No. 1.

That goal is shared by Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema, R-Wyoming.

"Michigan has one of the lowest recycling rates in the country, and to me, that's unacceptable," Sikkema said. By adopting the task force's recommendations, "Michigan can recapture the environmental leadership of the country."

Sam Washington of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, one of the groups that helped get Michigan's original 1976 bottle bill enacted, endorsed the task force's report.

"If they're followed through on, it will indeed be a great step forward," he said.

Michigan's bottle deposit bill, passed by voters in 1976, imposes a 10-cent deposit on soft drink, beer, malt beverage and wine cooler containers. Gov. Jennifer Granholm and environmental groups have supported expanding it to other beverages such as bottled water and iced tea.

But bottlers and the Michigan Grocers Association have opposed expanding the law, which would require grocers to handle even more returnable bottles. On Wednesday, Mary Dechow of the Michigan Recycling Partnership, which represents grocers, endorsed the report.

The ban on putting plastic water bottles into landfills wouldn't be implemented until a way to recycle the bottles was in place, said Sen. Patricia Birkholz, R-Saugatuck. She said the plastic bottles are on the list to be banned because a market already exists to recycle them into other products.

The report also suggests creating a state Recycling Advisory Council and offering tax incentives for businesses that use more recycled materials.

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