In March of this year the American Beverage Organization brought suit against the State of Michigan claiming that the 2008 amendments requiring Michigan specific labeling on beverage containers sold in Michigan violate federal interstate commerce clause. Michigan has the highest deposit on beverages in the country at 10¢. A famous (or infamous) Seinfeld episode had Kramer and Newman attempting to profit by returning non-Michigan beverage containers to Michigan and make 5¢ a can/bottle. Apparently they were not alone and in 1998 the Michigan Legislature passed an amendment only criminalizing the fraudulent redemption of containers. In 2008 the legislature criminalized the knowing acceptance by retailers of fraudulently redeemed containers and required that Michigan specific labeling be placed on deposit cans and bottles sold in Michigan. The provision, M.C.L. § 445.572a., states:
“A symbol, mark, or other distinguishing characteristic that is placed on a designated metal container, designated glass container, or designated plastic container by a manufacturer to allow a reverse vending machine to determine if that container is a returnable container must be unique to this state, or used only in this state and 1 or more other states that have laws substantially similar to this act.”
The requirement of Michigan specific marks only apply to deposit beverages that sell over 500,000 cases in Michigan per year. In May 2011 The US District Court ruled in favor of the state and found that the Bottle Deposit law did not violate the interstate commerce clause of the constitution. Furthermore, the court stated, that due to the high threshold requirements, not every beverage maker is required to mark their bottles specifically for Michigan. The court noted, “For example, for 12-ounce metal containers, the non-alcoholic beverages subject to the provision are: Coca-Cola,Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, Sprite, Coke Zero, Cherry Coke, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Mountain Dew, Diet Caffeine Free Pepsi, A & W, Dr. Pepper, and Vernors. While the District Court upheld the state specific markings, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to hear an appeal by the American Beverage Association of the Circuit Court’s ruling.
The proof the Michigan Bottle Deposit law works is that Michigan has the highest redemption rate of any of the states with Bottle Deposit laws. I am pleased that the Circuit Court upheld Michigan’s Beverage Deposit Bill, however I believe that it and similar laws in other states no longer accurately reflect current consumer tastes in bottled beverages. The Michigan law does not cover, bottled water, fruit juice and sport drinks. While Michigan residents can take pride in our high rate of redemption for those bottles with a 10¢ deposit, a Michigan Recycling Partnership study found that only 37% of Michigan residents have access to curbside recycling, the lowest in the Great Lakes region. I firmly believe that curbside recycling is the best method, moving forward, to increase recycling rates in Michigan. However, until cash strapped communities can convince their citizens to pay for curbside recycling, an expansion of the bottle to include, among other beverages, bottled water, is necessary.
As pointed out in the Kalamazoo Gazette, of the 70 million water bottles consumed each day, only 10 million are recycled. Most end up in landfills or littering our streets and walkways. An expansion of Michigan’s Bottle Bill is needed to motivate us to redeem the millions of bottles of water, juice and sports drinks consumed by our citizens. According to the Detroit Free Press, non-carbonated beverage containers now litter our roads and parks, making up to 50% of the trash picked up by park maintenance workers at public expense. Because non-carbonated beverage containers are excluded from the bottle bill, consumers have no incentive to recycle them, and only 20% of 1.4 billion non-carbonated beverage containers are recycled each year in Michigan.
The Free Press went on to say, public parks are a key component of the quality of life in every community. Keeping them beautiful and litter-free benefits every citizen. By getting all of the bubbles out of the bottle bill, we finally can get bottle litter out of our parks and reduce maintenance costs at the same time. All of us here at Maxi Container agree wholeheartedly. The Bottle Deposit Bill was originally passed in 1976. It is now time to update it, we need to expand the bottle deposit bill to include all of the various juice, water and other non-carbonated drinks that we now consume more frequently. You would be hard pressed to find a carbonated beverage in my home, but we have many types of juice, energy drinks and sports drinks. What about you, how has your beverage consumption habits changed? Do you commonly drink soda or fruit juice/sports drinks? please leave us a comment below.