January 31, 2009

Kalamazoo Gazette

Should there be a deposit on plastic water bottles?

.A sampling of hundreds of pounds of garbage that washed onto a 10-mile stretch of Lake Michigan beaches in Manistee and Mason counties in July 2008.

Americans are consuming over 70 million bottles of water each day. But, what happens to those empty bottles?

Sadly, the recycling rate for plastic water bottles is relatively low. Only about 10 million are being recycled; the rest are merely thrown out, building up in landfills and littering roads, parks and waterways.

Recycling these empty bottles is an easy way to help protect the environment. Recycled bottles can easily be used to make carpets, clothing, automotive parts and new bottles. Most water bottles are made with a nonrenewable resource called polyethylene terephthalate -- PET. When PET bottles are recycled, millions of gallons of petroleum and natural gas originally slated for use in the production of new PET can be saved.

However, many people need the added incentive of a deposit to motivate them to recycle these empty bottles. A deposit on water bottles would decrease the buildup of recyclable waste in landfills, reduce pollution, and prevent the emission of greenhouse gases when empty bottles are incinerated.

Deposits have already been proven to work with aluminum cans and glass bottles. These deposits should be extended to include not just water bottles, but all other plastic beverage containers.

Michigan is the only state in the Great Lakes region to place a deposit on carbonated beverage bottles. This 10-cent deposit has resulted in the return of 95 percent of all beverage containers with deposits.

Although some retailers may argue that adding a deposit on water bottles is not worth the hassle of updating equipment and providing storage space, they should remember that the deposit on carbonated beverage bottles has reduced the amount of pollution in many of Michigan's state parks and the Great Lakes.

Water bottles will not disappear anytime soon. Without a deposit on the bottles, people will simply toss the recyclable bottles into the trash.

Placing a deposit on water bottles and other plastic beverage containers will reduce pollution, conserve petroleum and increase recycling rates.

Karen Christiansen is senior at Three Rivers High School and is a member of the 2008-09 Gazette Young Editorial Staff.

Peering into the top of my friend's school locker you'll find, among textbooks, pencils and an array of homework, a dozen or more empty plastic water bottles. Add that to the six that collect in my own locker every month and the ones tossed out by hundreds of kids at lunch and what do you get over the course of one school year? You get an abundance of clear plastic bottles bypassing the recycling bin, only to make their way into a landfill where they take from 450 to 1 million years to biodegrade.

As plastic bottles increase in popularity, leading to increased pollution and litter, Michigan should provide a way for these bottles to be returned and reused.

Thirty-two years ago, Michigan's bottle bill went into effect, requiring a 10-cent deposit on all carbonated beverage containers. As a result, Michigan residents now return 97 percent of the 5.5 billion cans and bottles for which they pay a deposit, compared to the mere 20 percent of recycled plastic water bottles.

Pat Frankin, of the Container Recycling Institute, said, "The fact that seven out of 10 recyclable beverage containers are not recycled is appalling and a dreadful waste of energy and material resources."

Michigan's successful bottle bill should be expanded to include water bottles as well. After all, the only difference between water bottles and the ones requiring a deposit is their content.

While opponents argue that more deposits will increase the stress on grocers by requiring more machines, and increasing sanitation problems, the benefits of a cleaner environment are far greater than these negatives.

Michigan, which currently has the highest rate of returns in containers with a deposit, should look to increase its already successful efforts and add bottled water to the bill.

This change would not only encourage people to recycle more by adding a cash incentive and reduce littering, but also work to eliminate waste, one plastic bottle at a time.

Becca Baiers is a senior at Allegan High School and is a member of the 2008-09 Gazette Young Editorial Staff.

It seems kind of absurd that there isn't a deposit required on water bottles. The Michigan United Conservation Club pushed for Michigan to become the first state to have a deposit on recycled bottles, but the law only included carbonated beverages. Now they are pushing to expand that law so it includes water bottles or any other noncarbonated drink bottle as well.

People in Michigan recycle 97 percent of their pop bottles -- which is huge. That means almost all of the pop bottles we buy are being recycled. On the other hand, only 20 percent of water bottles are recycled. When you think about how good recycling is for the environment, it just seems like the original law would have included water bottles.

Although Michigan does have the highest deposit, at 10 cents, for pop bottles, we would not be the first to adopt a deposit for the recycling of water bottles. California, Hawaii and Maine all have deposits on water bottles. So I don't see what the problem is with Michigan simply adding water bottles into the already-existing cycle of returning bottles for a deposit.

Some people are concerned about the extra expense it would cost stores to put in the extra machines, but essentially the customers would be paying for it, not the stores themselves.

Think about it. The more people have to recycle, the more they have to come to the store. And who goes into a store without buying something, even if that's not what they came to do?

Having a return deposit on water bottles would be a good thing, and it should have been included in the first place. People will recycle more this way, which means a cleaner environment, less litter and less in the landfills.

And it would be accomplished by doing what we're already doing with pop bottles. It's not that complicated. Having deposits on water bottles is a good idea.

Erin Lodes is a senior at Climax-Scotts High School and is a member of the 2008-09 Gazette Young Editorial Staff.


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