Cigarette Butt Redemption Center?

A Maine legislator has come up with a radical new proposal to help clean up the environment: a 5¢ deposit on cigarette butts. Under his proposed law, modeled after the state's successful bottle and can deposit law, smokers would pay an additional $1 for a pack of smokes, which they could only get back by returning their cigarette butts to a redemption center.

Rep. Joseph Brooks, the creator of the so-called "Returnable Butt Bill," believes that the law would greatly reduce the number of ugly butts littering the state's beaches and parks. And anyone who's visited Maine knows there are a lot of ugly butts in open view on its beaches. Even if Maine smokers don't pick up their butts the state stands to benefit from additional revenue generated by unredeemed deposits, probably in the neighborhood of $50 million a year. As Rep. Brooks says, "If it works, great, everything will be a little cleaner. If not, we'll be able to fund anti-smoking programs in Maine schools."

Is it really necessary to have already harassed smokers suffer yet one more humiliation, and force them to carry around used butts all day in their pockets and pocketbooks? And what about the poor clerks who'll have the nasty job of counting up the hacked on butts to make sure each one has a Maine tax stamp, and was not illicitly smuggled in from Massachusetts or New Hampshire?

Well, as one proponent of the Returnable Butt Bill said, "In many places people are required to clean up their dogs crap, aren't they? This law certainly isn't any worse than that." Other proponents note that 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide each year, and since cigarette filters are not biodegradable, they'll continue to accumulate until someone cleans them up.

Maine and other states have proven with their bottle deposit laws that placing a returnable deposit value on bottles and cans helps insure they get picked up. Maybe this idea really can work for cigarettes and other things that we'd like to see cleaned up. For instance, how about laundry? At my house my kids leave their clothes lying around everywhere. Shirts are tossed behind the couch, socks under the kitchen table, sweatshirts are left lying in the front hallway to be used as a welcome mat for visitors. I wind up either angrily picking up the clothes myself, or yelling at the kids to. What if I were to make them pay a deposit for each article of clean clothes when they got it from the laundry? If dirty clothes were left laying around the house, anybody could pick them up and receive a nickel per item. I think at least one of them would see this as a business opportunity, and the house would soon be spotless. I'd probably have to start monitoring that they weren't stealing clothes out of each other's drawers to claim the deposit money.

I'd also like to put a deposit on the TV remote before I give it to my kids. That way when I come down to watch TV after I've put them to bed, I wouldn't have to spend the next fifteen minutes turning over all the cushions of the couches, wading through old popcorn and cracker crumbs looking for the damn thing, and then winding up on the floor, an arm's length away from the big screen, manually surfing through 150 channels to find my program.

I'd also like it if there were a deposit on toilet paper rolls and egg cartons. Because my wife is always saving them for some unknown "craft project" that she expects the children to create someday. If they ever started charging a deposit for these things I could carry in the ten boxes full that we have stored down in the basement, and make some money out of them. There are many other clean up possibilities. A 27-year-old MIT graduate student recently won the Lemelson inventors prize for his idea of making cheap computer memory chips from a plastic potato chip bag. It's possible that in the future we'll be able to recycle our junk food garbage and make computers out of it. First you eat the chips and then you make the chips.

And how about politicians? Lobbyists should be required to put down a deposit on every politician they buy. Let's say they had to put down $50,000 on each politician. This would insure that when their particular special interest vote was over, the lobbyist would return the politician to his loyal constituents to get his deposit back. If some special interest lobbyist got careless and tossed a politician out their car window on to the side of the road, the voters would at least have $50,000 to use for some worthwhile project, such as fixing up potholes or putting on a nice fourth of July fireworks display. And wouldn't it be nice if there were deposits on other things besides cigarettes that are going to kill us? If they made buyers pay an extra deposit to drive around in a fast sports car, motorcycle, snow-mobile, or ski-board, then the next of kin would have a built-in insurance policy. They could gather up the debris from the wreck, and turn them back in for a nice deposit.

The same thing for guns. People should pay a deposit when they buy a gun. Then when the user was done killing someone with it they wouldn't be as tempted to throw it away in some perfectly clean river or lake. Instead they'd want to bring it back to get their refund.

And a big deposit should be required for drums. Because although a set of drums won't kill you, your next door neighbor will, if you don't stop practicing the drums.

I also suggest that you should be required to put down a five cent deposit on CDs by the latest music industry created hit group, like The Backstreet Boys, or Eminem. That way, when your kids get sick of listening to this inane music, and it becomes worthless, because all their friends feel the same way, they won't just throw it into the trash to clutter up overcrowded landfills. Instead they will return it to the store they bought it from to get back their nickel.


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