I support the very worthy initiatives to curtail the disposal of trash in Michigan that does not meet our State's standards. I follow, with relish, the initiative to include additional containers into the recyclable container categories. I agree whole-heartedly with disallowing unequal fee reductions among various trash haulers and disposers.
My support of the returnable container initiative was shaken by an item on the "Don't Trash Michigan" website. Actually, I found it quite appalling. " The Bottle Bill will create jobs." This is absurd. The Bottle Bill may create a few minimum wage jobs for a short time, and those jobs will be financed through increases in the price of the beverages. That minimum-wage "salary" will be passed directly to you and me as consumers. In expanding the law, the legislature (and "Don't Trash Michigan") expects the retailers to handle everything, recycle everything, and account for everything, but not to charge for anything. Once the retailer catch up and implant bar codes into some mechanical reader, any newly created "job" will be gone, and the price of the beverage may go down, or may remain the same. I don't percieve of any benefit.
As I read through the "Don't Trash Michigan" website, there were ten topics identified as in need of action. I agree action is needed. What I found startling and quite misleading is the claim that of all those topics, only the Bottle Bill will create jobs. That is ludicrous. Granted, several of those other topic areas already created jobs, but "Don't Trash Michigan" doesn't want anyone to have those jobs -- most of which pay better than a retail-returnable-bottle-handler position ever could. What about the curb-side recyclers? I guess we won't need many of them anymore. Well, if the better-paying jobs are gone, and the bottle-handler positions are full, there is always the dole.
I believe recycling is easy, advantageous, and a socially responsible function. I practiced it before it was fashionable; not only because it is environmentally friendly, but because it makes sense to reuse refined and valuable materials. (Why throw away a perfectly good hunk of plastic?) The Bottle Bill will, again, increase the cost of beverages (and groceries) at the register where they are sold -- whether we purchase those products or not. That extra cost we pay (and we will pay) will go into the pockets of the bottlers, the retailers, the bottle-handlers, and the legislature, not into environmental awareness, education, or programs.
I always found it interesting -- and hypocritical -- that the legislature assumes some percentage of bottles will not be returned. They assign those unclaimed deposits to their budgets and to their programs. This practice shows they expect us not to recycle, and it expects failure of the recycling effort. They can raise revenues without raising taxes -- how quaint. Where does that money go? Where will lost deposits go? Education? Pollution prevention? DEQ salaries? Election campaigns? Where? I reycle today. Why should I be penalized for recycling tomorrow?
Let's get real. We all create trash, garbage, sewage, waste, and other skuzzy stuff. Crap is crap. Who's to say who's is who's a year from now -- maybe ours doesn't stink. Recycling is a key component; education is a key component, awareness is a key component, and new solutions are always key components. Throwing the financial burden of recycling on those folks who already understand, comply, and fight the problem is criminal. I already comply, recycle, and encourage recycling. Why burden me further? Given the choice, I would rather just buy a T-shirt.
Let's not be so naive to assume that a few new minimum wage jobs can be traded for a waste management and transportation infrastructure. A significant volume of those containers currently not subjected to the deposit law are recycled. Just because we don't pay a deposit, doesn't mean they go to a landfill. People already have jobs picking up and recycling those containers at the curb-side and at recycling centers.
Please don't mislead the public. The Bottle Bill may create a few minimum wage jobs, for a few folks, for a few short months. It may even help out a few down-on-their-luck street folks, but it won't build careers. It likely will eliminate (or recycle) a few very good blue-collar jobs.
Is the expanded returnable container law a good program? Maybe. But, please sell it on real merits; not as job opportunities. If we are going to sell anything, sell education.