In the 1970s, the state of Michigan implemented a law requiring that pop and beer cans and bottles have a $.10 refund. In the proceeding decades, this law has helped recycle most of the glass, aluminum, and plastic used to package carbonated and alcoholic beverages. It has cleaned up Michigan highways, rivers, and forests. If we adopted such a law nationwide, it would go a long way to reducing the amount of refuse in the landfills. After it has been in place for a while, it simply becomes a fact of life. It impacts society in ways that you might not expect.
During my time in Texas, I never could get used to simply throwing away bottles cans. Growing up in Michigan during the 1980s and 1990s, there has always been a bottle law in my life. As a child, as with many Michigan children, I spent summer days collecting cans in order to gain a little bit of pocket money. Before the price of gas rose, many Michigan teenagers would simply collect cans in their vehicles in order to pay for gas money. Stop and think about it for a second. If $10 worth of gas went a long way at that time, and the teenager simply collected from parties on the weekends, it wouldn’t take long at all to pay for a tank of gas.
There are several more stories of just how the bottle law has impacted Michigan society, but I simply used the two above to make a point. It doesn’t take much of a refund to make it worthwhile for people to recycle the cans. It is also important to note that the nation would have an example in Michigan. In fact, in recent years, other states have adopted similar bottle laws to those in Michigan. As a result, a blueprint exists for successful implementation.
Once the law was adopted in Michigan, grocery stores and other places that had originally sold the item collected the cans and bottles, giving the customer the refund. Most stores only took items that they sold and limited the amount you could return at one time. Today, supermarkets in Michigan such as Meijers and Wal-Mart have automated machines that collect the cans. When they were first introduced, people hated them; cans and bottles had to be entered one at a time. It used to be common to collect cans in 12 or 24 pack cartons, making things easier. However, now that the machines have been in place for a while, people are used to them. The advent of the can return machines lends itself to implementing the bottle law nationwide.
The key to implementing the bottle law nationwide would be Wal-Mart. With their experience in creating bottle return centers in their stores in Michigan and other states that have similar laws, Wal-Mart can easily adapt their other stores to accept cans/bottles as well. If lawmakers interested in making the bottle law a national law had Wal-Mart on their side, other supermarket chains that cater to states without a bottle law would be forced to go along.
Returning cans and bottle may be a pain, but at least you have some reward – the refund. In addition, you can feel good that you are doing your part to get the trash off of the roads, out of the rivers, and out of the forests. The bottle law has cleaned up Michigan; it is time that it cleaned up the nation.