Tougher Recycling Laws Lead to a Cleaner Planet

By MC Verb I don’t know about you, but it seems like everywhere I look outside, I see litter. Jars, cans, plastic bags, water bottles, paper – you name it. If you just look down, look around, you’ll find

garbage on the ground

. I’m a camper. I’ve been lots of places – lots of remote places. It seems that no matter where I’ve been though, if I look down and look around,

I find trash on the ground

. Here’s the thing. Sometimes the type of trash I see is different from state to state. Michigan, one of the most beautiful states in this country, surrounded by The Great Lakes, trees, and animals, certainly has its trash problems. Look around someday. You might be surprised at what you find. But even with our litter problems, if you do look around in Michigan, I bet I know what you WON”T find on the ground:

alcohol and soft drink bottles and cans

. In Michigan those cans and bottles are the same thing as money. Each is worth ten cents a piece – every single bottle and can. You’re not likely to go around throwing your 5, 10, or 20 dollar bills around on the ground. I don’t think most people would do that with their quarters, dimes, and nickels either. Alcohol and Soft drink bottles and cans became a focus in the state as part of the Michigan Beverage Container Act of 1976. According to the bill, the purpose was to

“reduce roadside litter, clean up the environment, and conserve energy and natural resources.”

This is how it works: If I walk to a store and buy a Pepsi that costs one dollar, I pay $1.10. That extra ten cents is the


. Really, I’m


the bottle. When I bring back the empty bottle, I get my ten cents back. If I buy a 12 pack of Pepsi, I pay 10 cents for each bottle. So that’s an extra $1.20. However, when I return the bottles, I get my $1.20 back. This seems fair, right? There are over ten million people living in this state. How many cans and bottles do we use each year collectively? The number must be astounding. Now imagine if all those cans and bottles (100’s of millions of them) were sitting in landfills and increasing each year. If the cans had no value, no ten cents, that’s where they would be. If they weren’t worth anything they would litter our neighborhoods just like the free plastic bags we see on roads, stuck in trees and bushes, and floating in our lakes. Here in Michigan, these containers are worth money, so we recycle them and reuse them. According to the Michigan Department of Treasury 97.2% of the cans and bottles purchased in our state are brought back for recycling. 97.2%! How would you like to get a 97.2% on your exam next week? That’s a high mark. That’s success. This program in our state works!

This is why I support expanding the law to cover all our containers


Think of all the containers we use: milk jugs, shampoo bottles, makeup containers, pickle jars, household cleaner bottles, water bottles…What if we took ALL that stuff that, once used, becomes trash, or litter, and recycled it? Imagine if 97.2 of ALL our trash could be recycled! If our lawmakers could create the current the system in 1976, why can’t we improve it over 35 years later? The Core Democratic Value “Common Good” states that citizens have the responsibility to

promote the welfare of the community and to work together for the greater benefit of all

. As citizens of this state, reducing our litter and increasing our recycling benefits everyone. Nationally, it’s sad that only 10 other states even have a bottle and can deposit system. I understand that some may believe litter is harmless. It’s a big planet, and it’s not like trash is everywhere, right? Others may say that recycling costs money to purchase the machines, or recycling is a waste of time. I disagree. It takes many years for one, single aluminum can to decompose in nature. You see, the problem is not only the can rusting there on the ground. We then have to strip our natural land of something called Bauxite Ore and ship it on a gas-guzzling truck to their production plant that releases harmful chemicals into the air. All this so we can create the


can. From there the new cans are put back on another truck and taken to be re-shipped to our stores. Think of the drinking glasses in the cupboard of your kitchen. What if you only used them a few times, threw them away, and bought more every week? How senseless does that sound? Well that’s exactly what we do with our milk jugs, shampoo bottles, makeup containers, pickle jars, household cleaner bottles, and water bottles, to name a few. Let’s use our heads here. When we set bags out for the garbage man each week, they may disappear from our minds, but they don’t disappear from our planet. I’ll tell you what


disappear, though: all the natural things we pulled from the ground and sent to factories for new packages. We can’t get those back. Most scientists and world leaders agree that our wasteful habits are causing dangerous changes to our planet. These are not small changes. Millions of tons of ice are melting away. Warmer summers are here. Drought is here. Violent tropical storms are here too. In Michigan, we are one of the few leaders in the area of bottle deposit recycling. Our 10 cent charge is the largest of all 11 states charging a deposit. These 11 states recycle more than the other 39 states combined! It’s not just because we want to; it’s because we HAVE to –our law forces us to pay that ten cents. It’s a successful law, so why wouldn’t we look to make our successes bigger now? We can be a model for other states and other countries.

Let’s expand our container deposit laws in Michigan

. Who knows, maybe someday we’ll look down and look around, and be surprised at what we


see on the ground!