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Great Lakes Article:

Task force looks at ways to increase recycling
With no plans to raise deposits, state suggests curbside pickup, drop-off sites
By Gitte Laasby
Capital News Service

LANSING -- Michigan won't see deposits on containers for water, iced tea and other noncarbonated drinks any time soon, but legislators suggest curbside pickup and drop-off centers as alternative ways to increase bottle recycling efforts.

A proposal to expand Michigan's 27-year-old bottle deposit law was dropped by the Senate Republican Task Force, which reviewed recycling efforts and their effects on consumers, businesses and the environment.

"The task force recommends that the Beverage Container Law not be expanded to include any additional containers at this time, due to the belief that the current system places too many burdens on dealers and distributors that need to be remediated before implementing any expansion," the report said.

Under the current law, only containers for soft drinks, carbonated water and certain alcoholic drinks are returnable.

"We feel that there are some problems with the current beverage container law insofar as the cost being borne by business," said Sen. Cameron Brown, R-Fawn River Township, who chaired the task force.

"And we think there's a way to increase recycling through programs such as we have recommended and keep the current beverage law as is."

Other members of the task force are Sens. Patricia Birkholz of Saugatuck, Michael Bishop of Rochester, Alan Cropsey of DeWitt, Jud Gilbert of Algonac and Wayne Kuipers of Holland.

Brown said the task force is looking at establishing redemption centers to increase recycling as well as "some reimbursement to businesses such as grocery stores who have borne, unduly, the burden of implementing the current bottle law."

"The task force believes that there are more cost-effective ways to increase recycling," the report said.

Michigan currently recycles 20 percent of its waste, the lowest rate among the Great Lakes states. New Jersey, with 53 percent, recycles the most of any state.

Another alternative to expanding bottle deposits is curbside pickup, a program Brown said local governments are reluctant to start because there has been no financial assistance for it.

The task force recommended establishing a $3 dumping fee per ton of waste to create a Recycling Works! Fund totaling $50 million.

The fund would provide grants to local governments to start recycling programs and offset tax incentives given to businesses to recycle products or create a recycling program.

The Michigan United Conservation Clubs supports many of the recommendations of the task force, specifically the fee proposal.

"If the $3 fee bill moves, we believe that'll go a long way to reduce the amount of bottles and cans and litter there is in the state," said MUCC policy specialist Donna Stine.

Stine said the organization would have liked to see an expansion of the bottle law but that "it looks like that's not going to happen right now. We're still looking at that opportunity, but it's not something we're working on immediately. When you work in the legislative process, you work for what is possible a lot of the time, not what's perfect."

The cornerstone bill creating a Recycling Advisory Committee to oversee recycling programs and performance has already been introduced.

The report also proposed establishing two regional pilot redemption centers as alternatives to bottle returns at grocery stores. Where the centers will be located and whether they will accept newspaper and plastics is not yet determined.

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