Bottle returns resume Monday in Michigan with an estimated $64 million in returnables waiting

Garages and basements rejoice as Michigan homeowners' traditional storage sites may finally see some respite in their capacity as bottle returns can finally be accepted in the state.

After a months-long hiatus, Meijer, Kroger and other grocers that accept aluminum cans, plastic containers, and glass bottles will reopen their conveyor belts to what's estimated to be at least a $64 million stockpile of returnables.

That measurement comes from the state's treasury department, which oversees returnables in Michigan.

Even with the economy stalling, resident's drinking habits remained strong during the COVID-19 pandemic. So strong in fact that sales for alcoholic beverages spiked after lockdowns went into effect across the country.

Typically, all those containers would eventually find their way back to recycling centers in the ten states that issue bottle deposits for returnables. But in Michigan, stores that accepted returnables weren't allowed to operate during the peak of the coronavirus.

RELATED: Cans and bottles pile up while returnable policy remains frozen during pandemic

But on Monday, restrictions on bottle returns were lifted for residents. However, like most other industries and norms returning to operations this May and June, the reopenings come with a few caveats:

  • Residents are limited to returning a maximum of $25 - totaling 250 cans
  • Bottle return operations will work during limited hours of the day
  • Facilities will be routinely cleaned for supply management

"During this initial phase, retailers must limit the volume of weekly returned beverage containers to no more than 140% of their average weekly collection volume measured during April and May 2019," read a release from the treasury department sent June 1. 

The chief operating officer of Schupan and Sons Recycling, which takes care of the state's returnables said the number of containers being emptied and not returned was growing by 70 million a week.