Scan the roadside on a drive through the Wabash Valley, and you might spot an empty pop bottle or two.
Or two dozen. Or 200.
Drink bottles have become our litter du jour. They compose an estimated 40 to 60 percent of all litter, according to the Michigan Environmental Council. Our northern neighbors have studied the issue extensively. Michigan is one of 10 states with a container-deposit law. Michiganders enacted their “bottle bill” in 1976, placing a 10-cent deposit on the drink’s price that consumers can get refunded when they return the empty bottle. As a result, 96 percent of those containers get returned and recycled.
By contrast, Indiana has no bottle-deposit law. As a result, people gulp down their soft drinks, beer, wine coolers, liquor, juice, tea, sports drinks or bottled waters and then carelessly toss the plastic, glass or metal container into streets, yards, creeks, farm fields, storefronts, downtown sidewalk flower boxes and the banks of the Wabash River.
Michigan looks clean, generally. Indiana, not so much.
That should change, and if Hoosier legislators show some determination, it will.
This summer, a legislative committee will study “every possibility that would increase recycling” in Indiana, as Rep. David Wolkins put it. He’s a Republican from Warsaw in the Indiana House. More specifically, Wolkins chairs the House Environmental Affairs Committee. In this winter’s session of the General Assembly, the committee dealt with House Bill 1183 through its passage. Alas, it wasn’t an actual bottle bill, but it could lead to one. House Bill 1183 requires recyclers and solid-waste districts to report data on the materials they process, so Indiana can figure out just how little Hoosiers recycle. Wolkins said the best estimates range from 20 to 25 percent of municipal waste, which puts us near the bottom nationally.
The bill sets a goal for Indiana to raise that to 50 percent. And, it sets up a summer study committee to analyze all possibilities to boost recycling of materials that fill Hoosier landfills and pollute waterways, roadways, cities and countrysides. Those possibilities include a bottle-deposit law.