Michigan Leaders Get Together To Solve Bottle Return Backlog

WWJ News
August 12, 2020 - 8:47 am
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(WWJ) The coronavirus pandemic forced a lot of changes across the state -- and it's called into question a 40-year-old law on a topic that's top of mind for many in the pandemic: bottle returns.

Several companies and associations are planning to hold a zoom meeting this morning to discuss how to recycle the state's bottle deposit law -- and how to reinvest in it.

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They say infrastructures are not equipped properly to handle the large returns made by Michiganders after cans and bottles piled up for nearly five months due to the statewide lockdown.

Officials estimate it would take six months for retailers and distributors to clear through the massive backlog of bottles and cans, and many don't have the proper equipment or staffing to get it done.

Related: Bottle, Can Returns Begin Today In Michigan With $65M In Pent-Up Demand For Machines

Anecdotally, people across social media have stories about lugging bags and bags of bottles to locations that tell them to leave. Facilities were supposed to reopen June 15 after a governor-ordered lockdowns on returns amid the pandemic in March, April and May.

Some said they had hundreds ready to return -- but no one would take them.  Many businesses set limits on how much could be returned at one time -- $3 or $5. Others struggled with having enough employees or supplies to keep the bottle returns humming.

"We need some sort of place to turn them in, other than the machines. I work in a store with one machine that fills up after just a few cans and bottles. It will never withstand the massive amounts that people have!" Kay Wood wrote on Facebook in June.

Ronald Johnson suggested on Facebook that stores like Meijer and Kroger put portable return machines in parking lots while Sandy Schuler Randolph said she waited in a long line to return ... and it didn't feel worth it.

"I just hate using the machines, there's always a line & the machines are never working/full," Julie Singh wrote. "I get beer from my local store (he's got the best price) plus I don't have all these cans/bottle stilling around. I bring them back in the same case they came in. I'll wait until he can take them back, not all at once, maybe 2 cases at a time. I'm not standing in some mile long lone waiting to return cans at the grocery...while wearing a FN mask sweating to death."