Michigan's Mandatory Deposit Legislation

The Environment Goes to Market: The Implementation of Economic Incentives for Pollution Control. National Academy of Public Administration, 1994. Pg.138-159.
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In 1976, the Mandatory Beverage Container Deposit Law was enacted in Michigan. Legislation was created that required deposit fees for certain recyclable bottles with the goal to reduce the amount of recyclable bottles that enter the waste stream. To educate the public about the new law they used mass media. The law required that consumers pay a 10-cent deposit on all containers of carbonated beverages and malt drinks sold in airtight containers. The bottle deposit legislation had two main purposes. First, to reduce the amount of waste and second, to reduce the societal costs for garbage collection, environmental damage, and wasted energy as a result of using non-recyclable materials. Deposit fees are effective because if the individual does not return the bottle for a refund, then he or she loses their deposit. Deposit fees are also an incentive because people who return recyclable bottles receive money whether or not they consumed or purchased the bottles. A number of arguments arose due to this legislation. One of the main arguments against the bottle collection legislation was that both the costs of recycling programs and the cost of recyclables themselves would increase. As well, it was argued that the use of both bottle collection programs and curbside recycling programs could confuse citizens.

Recently, Michigan’s container deposit program had an estimated return rate of 93-95 percent (approximately 10 percent higher than other states). The amount of litter and the volume of solid waste decreased as well as, the number of injuries due to glass bottles in the trash. Michigan’s deposit program created more jobs, increased energy savings, created changes in environmental policies, and changed packaging from one-way glass bottles to refillable glass and plastic bottles. As stated, a main concern of the legislation was the predicted increased costs of recyclables. Within a year there was an increase in the price of beer and soft drinks by ten to fifteen percent. In addition, the consumption of beer and soft drinks decreased five to ten percent. Overall, four things are certain about Michigan’s bottle deposit law. First, residents were pleased with the operation of the law and 72% said they would vote to continue the law. Second, the implementation of the Michigan deposit program has not been evolutionary. For example, other states have had a difficult time adjusting their laws to mimic Michigan’s program. Third, the price of implementing the program was costly for private sectors. Finally, it was found that costs were uneven among bottlers, distributors, and retailers. Although results of the legislation were successful, it does not appear to be an easy program to duplicate and therefore, further research is necessary for those who want to create a similar program. 
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