With Governor Gretchen Whitmer's order to re-open more retail establishments, and then, the long awaited re-opening of restaurants and bars on June 8th, getting the most attention, this small piece of news, while significant, may get lost in the hoopla.

The official notice is titled "Treasury issued a Notice Regarding Phased Reestablishment of Michigan’s Bottle Deposit Return Program." But for many who have not stopped consuming canned and bottled drinks and hard spirits, the piled up empties have begun to accumulate. While some groups have attempted to collect them as fund raising events, there are many more that are simply waiting to be returned to stores' recycling centers.

What's interesting is the wording in the bottle return mandate; The centers "must" re-open.

"Beginning June 15, 2020, all grocery stores, supermarkets and other retailers with bottle return facilities located at the front of the store or housed in a separate area and serviced exclusively by reverse vending machines requiring minimal or no person-to-person contact must re-open their bottle return facilities and resume the collection of returnable beverage containers and refund of customer bottle deposits. Retailers re-opening their bottle return facilities during Phase 1 must ensure that those facilities comply with all state-mandated safety protocols and restrictions, including the most recent state-mandated safeguards to protect workers." - Michigan Dept. of Treasury.

Here's the ground rules for beginning June 15th:

  • The retailers can't let you bring back more than $25 worth of returnables per day.
  • They have to limit their hours of operation, as well as the number of machine taking the bottles and cans..
  • They have to stop and clean and disinfect periodically (and do something with all those bottles and cans.)
  • After they collect 140% of their total collections from a year ago, they have to stop. (I guess they're expecting a lot of people.)

One interesting (and generous) item in the order. If you just want to get rid of the stuff piling up, you can do that, if you don't want your deposit money back. That's ok.

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