Fighting out-of-state cans, bottles protects Michigan taxpayers, environment
In these tough economic times, Michigan must make every cent count. We have to make every can and bottle count, too.
Every year, empty bottles and cans from neighboring Ohio are smuggled into Monroe County and redeemed at our local businesses. This activity is illegal. It is a fraud that robs Michigan taxpayers, Michigan businesses and Michigan's environmental cleanup funds.
Under the nation's most successful bottle bill, Michigan pop and beer bottles have a 10-cent deposit that can be redeemed. Neighboring states do not.
So, when cans and bottles from Ohio and Indiana are smuggled into Michigan and redeemed, Michigan businesses pay out money that they never collected in the first place. This reduces the unclaimed deposit fund that pays for the state's environmental cleanup programs. Every year, 100 million cans and bottles are smuggled into Michigan, according to estimates in a 2000 Department of Environmental Quality study. That's $10 million that smugglers take out of Michigan each year - money meant for our Cleanup and Redevelopment Fund.
This important fund helps local communities clean up brownfield sites, removing things such as old fuel tanks from abandoned gas stations and preventing toxic substances from contaminating our land and our Great Lakes. This money helps us build strong, healthy and safe communities. Thanks to this fund, we can protect our special quality of life in Monroe County.
Michigan's bottle deposits also help local businesses pay for recycling and processing. Local businesses are our partners in making Michigan a leader in bottle and can recycling. When out-of-state containers enter our deposit stream, they're also robbing businesses.
This is a serious problem in border communities like Monroe County. Mike Miller of Floral City Beverage in Monroe says he loses thousands of dollars each year because of these illegal out-of-state cans and bottles being redeemed on our side of the border. At the end of the year, he has a much smaller surplus to give back to the state because he has to pay for out-of-state cans without collecting deposits for them in the first place. Floral City and countless other local businesses are doing the right thing in our community: creating jobs, giving back to the community and leading the way in environmental stewardship programs, such as recycling. It is wrong for out-of-state cans and bottles to harm these job providers.
The problem is so bad that businesses are closing their doors because of the smuggling of out-of-state cans and bottles, especially along the southwest corner of Michigan.
That's why I support a two-pronged set of proposals to crack down on this smuggling. One approach requires drinks manufacturers to have a Universal Product Code or add-on bar code that identifies the container as returnable in Michigan. A second approach requires reverse vending machine manufacturers to upgrade their devices to identify cans and bottles from other states.
These steps can keep Ohio cans out of Monroe County. They can help make our businesses competitive and protect the environment at the same time. We should do everything to help Monroe County businesses compete against those in Ohio, from keeping out-of-state cans and bottles out to keeping beer taxes down so consumers will buy from Michigan outlets.
Monroe County wants jobs, tourists and business from Ohio, not empties that clean out our coffers and rob our taxpayers.
We can put Michigan first if we make every can count.
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Posted: Tuesday, September 18, 2007
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