Encourage recycling, but not with container deposits

The more things change, the more they remain the same. So it was that 35 years ago, Minnesota was a battleground in the effort to impose recycling fees on beverage containers.  Bottlers and soft-drink producers were able to stave off the effort, but now it is coming forth again.

A Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) report says that the proposal, which would place an additional 10 cent fee on each  container, and would increase recycling by 1.9 million containers per year, would also saddle consumers or beverage firms with $29 billion in additional costs.

Eleven states have container deposit legislation. Of those, all but two require a five-cent deposit. If the proposal passes in Minnesota, it would be tied with Michigan with the highest deposit in the nation, a dime. California charges a nickle for most containers, but 10 cents for bottles larger than 24 fluid ounces.

While the deposit would be a dime, additional costs to consumers would come if, as proposed, at least one redemption center would be created in each county to which consumers would have to drive to get their deposit back. Consumers would not be reimbursed for those transportation costs.

Minnesota has one of the highest recycling rates, 45 percent, among those states that do not have container deposit laws. The study estimates that the percentage of recycling would increase to 77 percent.

While we understand the purposes behind recycling and encourage everyone to do so voluntarily, mandating a price and raising taxes, mostly on pop and beer drinkers, seems like it will add inefficiency to the economy. The price of recycled aluminum and glass shouldn’t be set by government, but allowed to rise and fall with market forces. The plan would also take jobs out of the taxpaying private economy and add more government positions. While we encourage recycling, this is a regressive tax that will fall hardest on the poor.