Bills before a state House committee would change how money from unredeemed bottle and can deposits is used.
Supporters say the legislation would enact long-overdue amendments to Michigan’s deposit law. But opponents say it would divert money that’s needed for environmental cleanups.
Most of the money from unclaimed cans and bottles currently goes to a fund to pay for environmental cleanups. Sean Hammond with the Michigan Environmental Council says that generates $24 million a year for cleanups that would instead be pocketed by beverage distributors.
“So our contaminated site program, which takes care of things like Electro-Plating Services, where we had green ooze leaking on the highway, currently gets $24 million out of this program. Based on last year’s numbers, under the new formula, they would get $3 million,” he says.
Hammond says there are other changes to the law that would make sense, including expanding it to include cider and bottled water.
“This program needs a better funding source. It, frankly, needs a facelift across the board, but until that happens, we can’t jeopardize the money that it’s getting right now,” says Hammond.
Brett Visner with the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers says the deposit law costs businesses money, and they should not have to pay to clean up a problem they didn’t cause.
“Those are certainly things that there should be money dedicated to, but there is no nexus between beverage containers – beer, wine, and soda distributors – and brownfields,” he says.
The law was adopted in 1976 to discourage littering. Retailers have long complained about the costs and the burden of storing cans and bottles and redeeming the 10-cent deposit.