Michigan’s Recycling — How ’bout you?


I went into Meijer’s yesterday with Sheila and a couple of bags of empty cans.  Meijer’s is a   regional version of what my parents used to call a “dime store,” or you might picture a Target store.  At any rate, when we stopped in, we took our empty cans and bottles from the holiday drinking we’d done, and popped them into big grey machines that warned us to put in one container at a time.  Pretty lame, I thought, until we pushed a green button that printed our receipt and I found in our small trip we’d “earned” almost two dollars and the good feeling of having saved the environment that much more.

“It’s the law in Michigan,” said Sheila.  “Anyone who sells recyclable bottles and cans has to have a way to reimburse shoppers for returning them. Now, a lot of stores don’t have as nice a setup as Meijers, but I think the law has resulted in about a 90% return rate.”

That’s a lot of recycling.  And money.

Sheila put me on the phone with her daughter, Stacey, who gave me even more specific info.  “Elly and Liza have collected just shy of $400 in the last year,” she said.  Elly and Liza are my great nieces, ages seven and three. “They’re saving for a trip to Disney World.”

In case you think that the girls must live on soda pop, no, they don’t.  They just have friends who don’t bother to recycle, but will collect cans and bottles at their houses for the girls to take to the store with their mom.  The receipts from the recycling machines are turned in for cash.  That’s right, CASH.  None of this store coupon, or special savings rubbish.  Cold hard cash.

And Stacey’s girls aren’t the only ones caught up in this win-win situation.  Apparently, the Girl Scouts and other groups have used recycling as great fundraisers. Stacey said that in one day, the March of Dimes raised three to four hundred dollars this way.

And the recycling doesn’t stop at the U.S. border.  Each year the family heads into Canada, and collects cans on their trip to the Muskoka Lakes.  The cans are recycled up at “Port” and everybody is happy to do so,

I asked how long the recycling laws have been in place, and Stacey didn’t know.  “They must have been around at least twenty-five years,” she said. “I remember a boat race when I was a kid.  My friend and I went around collecting the empty beer cans from the revelers.  We made about $120 dollars that day.”

I was very impressed with the whole recycling thing, and asked Sheila how effective it is.

“I think they are up to about a 90% return on bottles and cans around here.”  Both Sheila and Stacey mentioned that when people don’t recycle, it’s okay, because others see them dropping the recyclables into the trash and go behind, making money off of other people’s laziness.

You just have to love this system!  It really works.  Now, can the rest of the country catch on to this practical, tried and tested concept, and do like the dolphins of Busch Gardens, Florida?  They do a show where the dolphins grab oversized cans and put them into trash containers.  The presenters then claim the dolphins are recycling and ask “How ’bout you?”

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