Bill To Clamp Down on Illegal Bottle Returns

12 06 2008

From a press release.

LANSING – Legislation to better regulate and control bottle returns was introduced today in the Senate, announced Sens. Ron Jelinek and Cameron S. Brown, both border district lawmakers and lead sponsors of the measures.


The five-bill package is designed to prevent bottles and cans not purchased in Michigan from being returned in state. The containers are returned, sometimes by the truckload, by individuals and organized smuggling rings that make large profits off Michigan businesses. These illegal operations cost the state $13 million a year.


“Michigan’s deposit law was created to promote recycling by using a small monetary incentive to get bottles back to the store. Smugglers take advantage that non-Michigan-bought bottles are still stamped with the ‘10 cent deposit’ marking – making them indistinguishable to retailers, who end up forking over the deposit money,” said Jelinek, R-Three Oaks. “We are working to crack down on this illegal activity to help Michigan save the much needed revenue.”


Michigan’s bottle deposit law collects 10 cents from each bottle or can purchased in Michigan and generously returns the 10 cents if the container is brought back to the store. Money collected but not returned is used to pay for environmental cleanup efforts around the state.


According to a 2003 report issued by the Michigan Beverage Container and Recycling Task Force, chaired by Brown, the bottle deposit law is a key measure of the state’s recycling rate.


“In these challenging economic times, it is even more important for us to protect Michigan businesses and consumers from individuals unscrupulously exploiting the state’s bottle deposit law,” said Brown, R-Fawn River Township. “This unlawful behavior is putting a financial burden on businesses across Michigan, especially those located near the border because surrounding states do not have a similar return policy.”


The legislation to help prevent the illegal deposit redemption would:

  • Allow dealers to use money from the deposit fund for retrofitting beverage return machines to accommodate new technology that would process only Michigan-bought containers;
  • Increase penalties for fraudulent beverage-container redemptions and create felonies for repeat offenders;
  • Require retailers to post the increased penalties on their premises; and
  • Allow dealers without automated beverage-return machines to limit customers from cashing in more than 50 cans ($5) in one day. 

Penalties include a fine of up to $500 for returning between 25 and 100 illegal containers, and up to $1,000 for returning more than 100 illegal containers. Penalties for repeat offenders increase to jail time of up to two years and a fine of no more than $5,000. Dealers accepting and paying the deposit on the returns will face similar penalties.

The bill isn’t posted on the Legislature website yet, so I don’t have a number, but I’ll add it when I do.  I really like the first bullet point.  I don’t think the other three will have much of an effect without the new technology.  I know I’ve had family in town that have brought a twelve pack with them and tossed the empties in with my recycling not knowing any better.  When I got to Kroger to turn them in, I have no way of knowing which was bought here and which wasn’t.  Being new to this whole bottle return thing, I stuck them all in the machine thinking that it reads bar codes and would spit the out-of-state cans back out at me. 


Another step that should be looked at is labeling the cans better.  I know the manufacturers would probably throw a fit, but they’re not going to pull their products from the shelf.  I would think they could do something with the bar code, but I really don’t know how that would work.  I think it’s wonderful that Michigan has a bottle return law and more states really should follow Michigan’s lead, but until they do, there needs to be a way to police it.




2 responses

19 09 2008

Wow, reminds me of a certain Seinfeld episode. 🙂

22 06 2011

Even with the deposit at 10 cents per container, it’s not worth my time standing in line next to the smelly reverse vending machines or the area in which they reside. I strongly feel the bottle bill should be repealed. If not, then at the very least get things smelly and dirty things out of our stores and and have redemption centres. Who wants this unsanitary mess in a place where we buy our foods?

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