IBWA Remarks for Michigan Bottle Bill Task Force Hearing

IBWA Remarks for Michigan Bottle Bill Task Force Hearing

IBWA Remarks for Michigan Bottle Bill Task Force Hearing

Monday, March 3, Oakland County, Michigan

Good evening and thank you for allowing me to speak to you on the issue of recycling in Michigan. My name is Troy Flanagan and I am here representing the International Bottled Water Association. IBWA is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers, including 25 Michigan-based companies. IBWA works closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water products.

If any of the Task Force members would be interested in visiting one of our Michigan facilities, please let me know and I’ll work with one of our members to arrange such a tour.

The bottled water industry is dedicated to the comprehensive management of bottled water packaging to provide the highest quality, most cost effective and environmentally responsible containers possible. Perhaps more than any other segment of the food industry, the bottled water industry already contributes significantly to solid waste reduction through the use of refillable containers for home and office water cooler service. Our members often donate their product to charitable events such as marathons, runs, and walks to benefit disease research. Many of those companies require the event organizers to set out recycling bins in exchange for the donations.

Comprehensive solutions that our industry supports include public education and the implementation of curbside recycling programs. Curbside recycling programs accept a larger variety of materials than other solid waste programs and, therefore, divert a greater volume of solid waste from the waste stream. The convenience of curbside programs also offers consumers the ability to more easily recycle household products. If our goal here truly is to divert more material from the landfills and roadways, comprehensive, education-based solutions have proven to be better options than our current bottle bill system.

Bottle bills, even when expanded to include bottled water and other non-carbonated beverages, capture less than five percent of the total municipal solid waste stream. As you can see in California and Maine, the only other states with bottled water in their deposit/redemption programs, the bureaucracy required to administer this type of program makes it an extremely inefficient way to address recycling and litter control. By effectively placing a bounty on certain types of containers, bottle bills also remove valuable recyclable materials from curbside programs, thereby hindering the financial viability of such quality programs.

For manufacturers, distributors and retailers, bottle bills create a financial and logistical nightmare by placing an undue strain on their operations and adding costs for the products.

Ultimately, the costs incurred through the inherent inefficiencies of a bottle bill system are passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices. Bottle deposits on water in particular are extremely regressive for individuals such as the elderly, children and people with suppressed immune systems, who must turn to bottled water as their primary source of drinking water.

In the interest of all parties involved, from the government to industry and ultimately to the consumer, it is clear that a comprehensive approach to recycling is the only way for Michigan to significantly increase its recycling rates.

It is also important to remember that behavioral approaches to solid waste reduction and litter control must be a part of any good public policy on the subject. Education of consumers, government and industry is the key to making everyone responsible citizens in environmental protection. Unfortunately, there has been very little public education on recycling, at both the local and national levels, for too many years. Without some level of public education illustrating ways to increase personal responsibility for recycling and litter control in conjunction with other waste reduction measures, the success of such programs is severely restricted and its purpose defeated from the outset.

Any attempt to increase recycling rates or reduce litter has to be evaluated to determine whether the means is worth the ends. Implementing a vast bureaucracy and creating logistical and financial hardships for all parties involved to successfully capture a small amount of the total municipal solid waste stream may not be the best solution. On the other hand, well-developed curbside recycling programs offer a convenient way for the average consumer to participate in an effective recycling program.

In order to effectively address the total municipal solid waste stream, this task force must look beyond beverage containers. For instance, bottle bills specifically target packaged consumer product manufacturers, and the distributors and retailers of those products. Yet the packaging used in these products represents a small fraction of the total volume of waste destined for landfills. Focusing on one category type and thereby singling out one industry – an industry that contributes just 4 percent to the total waste stream –

does not achieve total solid waste reduction. Any successful solid waste or litter reduction program must include a shared responsibility between all producers and users of packaging.

Bottle bills were a 1970s solution to 1970s problems. We must now look for new, innovative ways to address our more complex environmental issues than simply thinking expansion is the only option.


Thank you.


M. Troy Flanagan

Director of Government Relations