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Hidden Tax and Free Labor Claims in Michigan Bottle Return Law
By David Najor :: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 :: 58420 Views :: Article Rating :: Law & Order, Business & Finance, Government & Society, Chaldean Justice League

Michigan, USA - “Chaldean convenient and grocery market retailers are unhappy about this,” says Jalal Rayes, a prominent consultant to Chaldean food retailers in southeast Michigan.  “You can’t keep kicking small businesses.  We are tired of it.  The state already has added more taxes, more regulation, more fees for permits, more taxes for equipment, and now is considering turning our businesses into recycle centers.  They just can’t afford it.  It hurts customers, employees, and businesses that are keeping Michigan alive.”


The Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) kicked off an initiative today to convince the legislature to add a 10-cent deposit for water bottles.   This is the same group that originally pushed for Michigan to become the first state to require deposits on pop bottles.

The idea has come under harsh criticism from Chaldeans and many others in the business community, mainly those that would be responsible for handling all the new empty containers. 
 
“For every refundable container grocery markets or stores collect there is a cost.  There is a cost in labor, storage, sanitation, and productivity.  We are forced by law to be free labor for the state and the conservation clubs.  We love keeping Michigan clean, but please be fair and pay us for our work.  Give a penny or two for processing the recycled bottle,” proposes Rayes.  “Enough is enough!”

The idea has some merit says Anthony Mason of Clean Earth.  “Small businesses should not be forced to bear the burden.  The cost is high for these small businesses and smaller mom and pop shops are hit hardest.  Like everyone else they should be compensated for the work in recycling.”

In 1976, The Michigan United Conservation Club lobbied the state to pass a bottle deposit law.  To add water and non-carbonated drink bottles to the state’s bottle deposit law would require a three-fourths vote of the legislature, which goes on recess at the end of June.  The bill proposed by Rep. Mark Meadows, D-East Lansing has won favor with the recycling business groups. 

Rayes says that Michigan citizens want a fair solution.  He adds that in an early 2000 campaign debate, Gov. Jennifer Granholm proposed the state should expand the law to include tea and juice containers. State Sen. Michael Switalski, D-Roseville, also had a nearly identical bill that stalled in the Senate.   “This is proof that a half-wit idea is harmful.  We are tired of politicians just throwing out ideas to make their friends happy without giving deep thought to the consequences and costs.”

Dennis Muchmore, executive director of MUCC said bottled water and sports drinks weren’t around in 1976 when the original law was passed. “They’re here now and more are being consumed every year,” he said.  Muchmore’s group claims that only 20% of water bottle containers are recycled compared to 97% of pop and beer containers.

Rayes argues that this is not an issue of compliance.  “We oppose this hidden tax.  Small businesses are tired of being forced to do work for free.  When a customer pays ten cents extra for a can of pop and then returns the can, we give them back their ten cents.  But, you have to hire someone to take the empty can, pay for the space to hold that can, you have to sanitize the can, organize the cans, store the can, count the cans, and return the can.  That process costs money. We are asking that we be paid for that work.”

Edward Deeb, president of the Michigan Food and Beverage Association says, "We're not the rubbish collection agency in the state of Michigan,"

Deeb said the proposed law would unduly burden convenience and grocery stores that are already under pressure from state and federal laws to keep spic and span.  He said the proposal wouldn't require, just as the existing law doesn't require, that the containers be returned clean.

Like Rayes, Deeb offers an alternative plan: tax each shopper one penny per shopping trip to the store and use the money to fund a statewide recycling center that could handle everything from bottles to newspapers to scrap metal.

Anthony Mason of Clean Earth also likes Deeb’s suggestion, “Having more professional and expanded recycle centers would go far in promoting the health of our environment.  Plus, the state will have better control of scrap metal returns in Michigan.  Michigan is facing appalling issues of copper and metal thefts from foreclosed homes.  This solution might just solve two problems in one and keep our planet clean.” 

To download the most current bottle collection law please click here.