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Michiganders wait to return $50 million worth of cans and bottles

Posted at 6:16 PM, May 19, 2020

LANSING, Mich. — As many of us are wondering when we'll be able to return bottles and cans again, one Michigan recycling business says Michiganders could be piling up more than 70 million a week. That's more than $50 million worth.

"There is urgency here. Each week that we wait, the demand grows and it becomes more of an issue," said Shayna Schupan-Barry with Schupan & Sons Recycling.

Grocery stores and recycling centers are trying to find the safest way for customers to return bottles and cans once that's available again. That means taking a look at some different approaches.

"You could do it via weight potentially or a bag system where you put everything in one bag, a certain type, aluminum in one bag, plastic in another bag, and then you take that to somewhere where maybe you could get a credit back later. So it's not immediate but you're getting it back and you're getting it out of your home," said Amy Drumm with the Michigan Retailers Association.

Drumm says the money is there to return to customers, but a potential surge once bottle return centers are open again could slow down the process. Plus, you can only get back $25 at one time.

"People need to understand they're going to have to be patient. We do still have to follow social distancing and cleaning requirements. Those deposit areas, if they're in a separate room, are pretty small. If they're not in a separate room and you're taking them back, they may be in the back of the store so you may have to wait in a line," said Drumm.

Some are concerned that bottles and cans could carry germs. Taking a few extra steps when storing your cans can make the process a little more hygienic.

"Rinse those out. Keep them somewhere where they're not going to be exposed to pests or bugs. Don't put other things in them. We don't want extra dirt or material that's not recyclable inside the cans or bottles," said Drumm.

"It's important for Michigan citizens, especially at this time, to be able to get access to the money that they've paid. This was never supposed to be a tax that's taking money away from the people of Michigan. It's supposed to be an incentive to bring the bottles and cans back," said Schupan-Barry.

Those who are just looking to get rid of their bottles can donate them to non-profits or throw them in with their regular recycling. Drumm says the state uses that money towards environmental cleanup.

FOX 47 reached out to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office to see when she might reopen bottle recycling centers but did not receive a response.

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