Bottle Laws Expand to Water

Most states don’t have bottle deposit laws. Some of those states that do have the laws are expanding them to include deposits on bottled water and other beverages. Lester Graham reports:


Most states don’t have bottle deposit laws. Some of those states that do have the laws are expanding them to include deposits on bottled water and other beverages. Lester Graham reports:

When Ed Solomon drives up in his delivery truck, he’s not just taking
in cases of soda and other beverages:

“Most every stop we go to as we deliver products, we take the empties
out, and the crates also. But, WHOOO! Yes. Sometimes there’ll be a
lot of empties at various stops.”

Solomon delivers Faygo beverages in Michigan. That state has the
nation’s highest deposit on bottles and cans: ten cents each. And
whether it’s Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Budweiser or Miller, if distributors
drop off product, they have to pick up the empties that people bring
back for the deposit refund.

Of the ten states that have bottle deposit laws, some are adding the deposit requirement to new beverages such as bottled water.
Forty other states have no deposit law at all.

Johnny Georges operates the convenience store Stadium Party Shop in
Ann Arbor, where Ed Solomon is dropping off new product and picking up
the empties. If the law in Michigan is expanded, it would mean Georges
and his employees would have to take in a lot more kinds of empty
bottles and cans.

“I think it’s going to take a little space in my opinion because there
are so many waters out there, so many juices, so many other brands.
So, it’s going to take a little space. Hopefully we’re going to
organize it as usual. And… we’ll see.”

Not everyone is that receptive to the idea. Beverage distributors and
major grocery chains are lobbying hard against expanding the deposit
law. Distributors don’t want to hassle with picking up the empties.
Major grocery chains say they don’t like the mess of people bringing
empties into the stores. They don’t like losing floor space to make
room for bottle and can collection areas. The bigger stores also have
to invest in bar code scanners to automatically count and sort the huge
volume of empties being returned.

A lot of small stores like Johnny George’s don’t have the fancy
equipment. Here, Georges just set aside a neatly organized area where
it collects and sorts the bottles and cans. He says he knows that an
expanded bottle deposit law would mean a little more hassle, but he
doesn’t mind:

“I like the new law. I hope they pass it. That takes a lot of trash
out of the street. And it’s good for the environment in the meantime.”

And Georges isn’t the only one who thinks it would be good for the environment.
Polls show a large majority of people support the idea.

James Clift is with the environmental group Michigan Environmental
Council. He says it’s time to expand the law to other containers.
When the bottle law was written 30 years ago, beer and soda pop cans
and bottles were the biggest concerns.

“But since then, bottled water, tea, other beverages, energy drinks,
we’ve got a whole new set of drinks on the market. And they’re a
larger and larger segment of the market to the point they may become
the majority of the market in the next five to ten years.”

Clift says his state needs to catch up to the changing market, but the
majority of the states don’t require a deposit on cans and bottles at
all. And Clift argues, you can tell when you’re traveling in one of
those states:

“You know, because you see all the trash along the roadways, you see
trash cans filled with bottles and cans and it just seems so unnatural
for someone who grew up in Michigan, you know, to throw away a bottle
or a can. Luckily, we’ve been programmed to know that that has value
and has other uses.”

So people there bag or box up their empties, take them to the store, the
stores can sort them and guys like Ed Solomon can take them back to be

“It’s hectic, yes, it really is, you know, to deal with these empties.
Yeah, but, that’s the law I guess.”

And if the can and bottle deposit law is expanded to, and other drinks, as it has been some states, more distributors
and grocers in Michigan will find the job a little more hectic… while
40 other states do little to nothing to reduce the number of cans and
bottles headed for the landfill.

For the Environment Report, this is Lester Graham.

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