Proposed Bottle Deposit Law is a tax on your time as well as your money

Sticky bottles and cans in the trunk of your carYou may have read recently of a discussion over a proposal to enact a bottle deposit law in Minnesota. Other states like Michigan, for example, have had systems like this for years.   The goal is to force people to recycle the deposit items more consistently by adding a fee on to the price of the item. For example, a 10 cent fee added to each bottle of a six pack would mean an additional 60 cents per six pack, which would be redeemed when the bottles were recycled.

In Michigan the law requires stores to provide the means for recycling. When it was first enacted, most stores kept a counter busy with some unlucky employee wearing rubber gloves to sort the cans and bottles into piles while somebody else totaled up return receipt or dispensed the cash. Eventually, however labor costs and technology produced the deposit return machine. Insert bottles here, get cash (or a receipt) there.

 How this would work in Minnesota is anybody’s guess but we do have some clues in the draft report released by the Minnesota Pollution Control agency. Instead of store based recycling centers (which would require sticking businesses with the cost of recycling) the proposal suggests that government “recycling centers” be created.   These recycling centers would have to located a convenient distance from peoples’ homes and so there would have to be quite a lot of them.  Even so, all of that time spent rinsing, sorting and driving your recycling around town tends to add up for the average family.

Minnesota’s communities already recycle, some to greater or lesser degrees as is practicable for their circumstances. In urban communities, not only do they recycle but recycling helps to pay for their entire solid waste system. By creating a new, statewide system for the most valuable items, glass, aluminum and plastic beverage containers, recycling the rest (cardboard. paper and other aluminum products) wouldn’t be worth doing for these local governments and would probably inflict a cost burden on them to continue to do so for environmental reasons.

But environmental activists don’t care about making things cheaper or easier for people. When Minneapolis recently moved to “single sort” recycling, where all of the recycling is placed in a single bin, the rate of recycling went up, even as the cost of recycling (where the products were sorted at a facility) went up. But the program was a win-win in that recycling and recycling revenue increased overall.   Environmental activists don’t like this because they want you to get to know your trash. All those separations are meant to raise your consciousness about how much waste you produce to shame you into producing less.

In the case of beverages, they’d prefer you not to drink so much soda, bottled water or beer. You should be drinking whatever it is you drink out of a reusable container. If you do use the disposables, you’ll be driving around with sticky bottles and cans rattling around in your car trunk until you can find time to stop at the recycling center.

Before we get too far down this path, it would be worth examining this MPCA report closely and in order to do so, the Taxpayers League has sent a formal public data request to the MPCA asking to be able to read any and all communications and research data related to the creation of the report. You can see a copy of our request here