The draft cost-benefit analysis report released by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and prepared by an outside contractor makes it seem as if this deposit-return system could be set up in a way that would be self-sufficient. As cans and bottles are used and recycled, the money would simply be moved in and out of a revolving fund. But there are some serious potential costs that were either overlooked or which contractor and the MPCA chose not to mention in this draft.
The proposal states that unlike in other Statewide recycling systems, “recycling centers” are to be set up across Minnesota. There will still have to be quite a few of these set up across Minnesota in order to be not just convenient but reasonably accessible, especially in greater Minnesota. Recalling the debate in the legislature on the question of where rural Minnesotans would obtain a photo ID if such was required just ONCE for voters over the age of 65 or even once every five years for those younger, can we expect a similar debate about how many of these recycling centers there should be across the state? After all, recycling will be done by most families on a monthly if not weekly basis, year round, during the hottest summers and coldest winters. How convenient and accessible these places are is important.
And so we have a low ball estimate in the report of just 47 recycling centers for greater Minnesota. There are 87 counties in Minnesota. If there are to be more centers in the 7 county metro area due to the density of the population, that means fewer in outlying areas. Now we have people potentially driving many miles, with their recycling in the car, burning fossil fuels and costing more than the supposed benefit of recycling. Surely this wouldn’t stand for long and if the program were to be instituted we should expect requests for funding more centers almost immediately.
And speaking of driving around, we can expect some increased cross border traffic. South and North Dakotans, Wisconsinites and Iowans will stream across the border looking to make some easy cash on bottles and cans that they never paid a deposit on. Unlike the deposit-return State of Michigan that is surrounded on three sides by water, Minnesota has a much larger number of border counties with significant population centers such as Fargo, ND and Superior, WI. Cross border traffic is already an issue owing to the differential in cigarette taxes. Now we’ll see Minnesotans fleeing the state to pick up their cigarettes AND their diet coke and Sconnies and Dakotans bringing us their empties. And if you own a convenience store on the Minnesota side of the border, you’ve no doubt already felt the tobacco tax increase. If this bottle deposit bill passes, the state of Minnesota has destroyed your business model in just two legislative sessions.