Michigan citizens backed â€œgreenâ€ laws and lawmakers before the term was even popular. Ours is one of ten states that require a deposit on bottles and cans. In the 1950s and 1960s, pop and beer bottles and cans were not returnable. The roadsides were littered with these bottles and cans. In 1974, State Representative Lynn Jondahl of East Lansing introduced a bill that would require stores to collect a dime deposit on carbonated beverage containers.
Certain groups opposed this bill. Companies that made bottles and cans were against it because they were afraid they would lose their jobs. Stores did not like the bill either, because they would have to set aside space in their stores for returned bottles and cans. Although most Michiganians favored it, lawmakers ignored Jondahl’s bill.
In 1976, the Michigan United Conservation Club (MUCC) took action through an initiative. An initiative gives people the power to propose laws, enact laws, or reject laws by placing them on a ballot. In order to get the issue on the ballot (called a proposal), the MUCC gathered 400,000 signatures. That’s twice the number they needed. The first person to sign the petition was Governor William Milliken, who wanted Michigan to become â€œa model stateâ€ in the fight against pollution.
On November 2, 1976, voters went to the polls. About 2 out of 3 voted yes. By doing so, voters made a new law. Today, Michigan is the only state with a ten-cent deposit (as opposed to a nickel in other participating states). A full ninety-six percent of eligible containers are recycled. According to the MUCC, more than a half million tons of waste are diverted from landfills every year because of Michigan’s Bottle Bill.
For more great stories on Michigan’s past, look to Michigan History and Michigan History for Kids magazines. For more information or a free trial issue, call (800) 366-3703 or visit www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.
Article By Christine Schwerin
Photo and tile by Sporck Tileart