Those with persisting mounds of bottles and cans will soon have more options to get their 10-cent deposits back.
The Michigan Department of Treasury on Monday announced the state is preparing to further relax its restrictions on bottle and can redemption put in place last spring because of the coronavirus.
In Phase 2 of the restrictions relaxing, beginning Oct. 5, all retailers selling beverages in bottles and cans that have the 10-cent deposit, and who use reverse-vending machines to accept returnables, must resume taking them. Since mid-June, only the state’s largest retailers with the reverse vending machines were required to accept the bottles and cans; now all retailers with such machines must do so.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in an executive order March 23, suspended the collection of returnable beverage containers statewide. The move was to allow grocery stores and other retailers to shift employees away from container collection to where they were most needed, and to protect the health and safety of retailers, state Treasury officials said.
Of the 10 U.S. states with bottle and can deposits, Michigan was the only state to completely shut down its redemption program. It left more than $50 million in bottles and cans accumulating in people’s garages and closets, for almost three months.
In mid-June, larger supermarket chains such as Meijer and Kroger, with reverse vending machines able to accept returnables with minimal employee contact, resumed container collection.
Under Phase 2, grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers with reverse vending machines must reopen their bottle and can return facilities starting Oct. 5. Those retailers without the machines may resume container redemption at their discretion.
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Retailers can take steps such as limiting hours when returns are accepted and limiting returns from individuals to $25 per day, under Treasury’s announcement.
Retailers must limit their weekly beverage containers returned to no more than 140% of their average weekly collection volume for April and May of 2019.
A further phase of reopening, in which all stores selling bottles and cans with deposits, reverse vending machines or not, must again accept returns, is not yet scheduled, and will be tied to improving public health conditions with COVID-19.
Detroit resident Mary Weekly buys her beverages with the deposits at the Liquor Depot store on 8 Mile Road, which does not have the reverse vending machines and is not yet accepting returnables.
“If a store can’t return the 10-cent deposit, then why are they selling bottles and cans that have deposit?” Weekly said.