Seinfeldian: Some Consumers Really Do Drive Their Cans And Bottles To Michigan

Remember that episode of Seinfeld where Kramer and Newman attempted to drive a mail truck full of cans and bottles to Michigan in order to profit from the $0.10 bottle deposit? Well, apparently, people really do this. And it’s no fun for Michigan.

The AP says that the state of Michigan would have $10 million more a year for environmental cleanup if it weren’t for people from redeeming money on out-of-state containers.

Michigan is the only state with a dime deposit on all carbonated beverage containers — other states have a nickel deposit on most cans — so people buy drinks in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin and redeem the containers in Michigan.

“It’s like a rebate, $2.40 a case for pop and beer,” said Jim Wanty, president of O & W Inc., a beer distributorship in four Michigan counties near the Ohio state line. O & W lost about $65,000 last year from picking up more returned containers from stores than it had delivered.

The party may soon be over for bottle deposit fraudsters (some of whom are fairly sophisticated and collect and crush millions of cans), thanks to some new technology. The makers of the machines that collect the cans are working on a method to distinguish Michigan containers from out of state ones.

In Maine, requiring an address discourages out-of-state people from taking advantage —

In Maine, a new company has found success with redemption machines that put people’s bottle returns in a debit-card-like account that requires personal information initially.

“People who were coming in from out of state aren’t willing to put their name and address down saying what their home address is,” said Hal Prince, director of the Division of Quality Assurance and Regulations in the Maine Department of Agriculture. “They try to find other ways to redeem them or they take them back home.”

Despite the hassle, bottle deposit laws are popular are effective. Michigan says that 97% of containers are recovered.

States find a can of worms in bottle deposit laws


Edit Your Comment

  1. rubberpants says:

    Newman: Maybe we should stop and get some snakes. It might be a good investment.
    Kramer: That’s not an investment. That’s a loss.

  2. wattznext says:

    This, along with the “low flow shower head” idea from yesterday, makes two Seinfeldian articles in as many days.
    I love it!

  3. El_Fez says:

    Wait – returning cans from out of state is fraud?!? Funny, there’s no “This can can only be returned if you bought it in the state” on any of the bottles I’ve ever seen.

    • mmmsoap says:

      @El_Fez: While it may not technically fit the legal definition of fraud (IANAL, so I don’t know) it’s certainly a bit shady. When you buy a case of soda for $3.50, you get charged $3.50, plus $0.05*12 = $0.60 deposit. When you redeem those cans, you get your $0.60 back.

      If you buy in a $0.05 state, but redeem in Michigan, you are earning $0.60. Everyone else — those who both buy and redeem in $0.05 states, and those who both buy and redeem in Michigan — break even. But if you’re the guy who heads to Michigan to redeem, you’ve earned money, and it has to come from somewhere.

      Similarly, most grocery stores that redeem coupons have some sort of fine print stating that they don’t combine offers or won’t redeem a coupon for more than the item is worth, so that they don’t owe you at the end of the transaction.

    • Pithlit says:

      @El_Fez: Yes, it is. The ten cents you get back isn’t a refund; it’s a deposit. If you look on the can or bottle you buy in Michigan, it will have it noted somewhere on it that a Michigan ten cent deposit was paid when the purchase was made. If you return an out of state bottle or can that doesn’t have that noted on it, the deposit wasn’t paid with the purchase of that product, therefore ten cents isn’t owed.

      I grew up in Michigan. I miss the ten cent deposit. I remember gathering up the bottles and cans around the house for money for the local pool during the summer. I wish all states did this.

      • balthisar says:

        @Pithlit: I wish Michigan didn’t do this. It’s a nasty, disgusting experience returning your bottles and cans with nasty, disgusting people in nasty, disgusting machines at the grocery store, just prior to shopping. You know — handling fresh fruits and vegetables after touching nasty, disgusting returnables and machinery?

        I guess stupid people are prone to using them as a forced savings account. Hey! By time you have 100 soda-pop cans, that’s a free $10! Never mind the fact that you’ve paid 10¢ above the nominal price in the first place (it is a deposit, after all), and that the program has driven up the base (pre-deposit) price of all affected product in the first place. As soon as you leave Michigan into a non-deposit state, affected beverages are significantly cheaper than the 10¢ deposit difference.

        Supporters argue that it keeps the state clean. I’ve been to non-deposit states that are just as clean. In reality, it’s a tax-grab. If you read the F.A., the case for fraud is that the state is losing money it would otherwise keep on unredeemed deposits!

        Tell everyone what: since I just throw my empties in the garbage (they’re not worth the trouble to claim), feel free to come to Michigan and claim the refund in my place. I give you permission to claim my refunds.

        • Anonymous says:

          @balthisar: Supporters also argue that it is better for the environment, because instead of all your empties ending up in a landfill – they’re being recycled.

          How has the program driven up the base price? Do you have any evidence the price differences you suggest or quotable research that shows a correlation?

          And finally – calling people who are returning their cans for the money they deposited (i.e. *their* money) “disgusting” is mean and stupid.

        • xwildebeestx says:

          @balthisar: Wow, your mother must be proud.

        • Javert says:

          @balthisar: Wow. You must make the state real proud. A real statement would be that you just threw them in the recycle bin but based on your comments you probably believe that is for commies or some such rot and hence ‘don’t believe in recycling.’ Thank you for being the stereotype that I must constantly defend against.

          For the rest of you…BALTHISAR’s comments do not represent the State of Michigan or 99% of the residents of the state.

          • balthisar says:

            Yeah. It’s published all the time. It’s driven up prices. Also anecdotal: leave the state, and you get cheap pop.

            I also didn’t mean to imply that people are disgusting before they return their bottles. As the person below who can only jump to wrong conclusions and feel superior said, 99% of people return their deposit items. It’s the process that makes us all disgusting. It’s disgusting. Dirty. Nasty.

          • balthisar says:

            @Javert: Where the fsck did you get that idea out what I said? I simply don’t return them? Are you jealous that 10¢ is worth less to me than my time and personal hygiene?

            The fact is there are a significant amount of Michiganders who agree with me and also don’t return their containers, otherwise the state wouldn’t have the tax money that they’re complaining about “losing”.

            “Commies and such rot?” Do you know how much I spent on my green goethermal HVAC system? Do you know anything about me other than that I don’t return my containers?

            If I had to interpret you, I’d say you’re an obnoxious, weaselly troll that 99% of the world hates dealing with on a daily basis. But I won’t interpret you, because it’s too easy for people like you to post a comment on a forum before you take your foot out of your mouth (i.e., I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt).

        • Tmoney02 says:

          @balthisar: “Supporters argue that it keeps the state clean. I’ve been to non-deposit states that are just as clean.”

          Grew up and Michigan and left becuase of the no jobs. Now live where there is no such thing as deposit laws. I see cans and bottles lying around all over the place. In Michigan I never saw a popcan lay on the ground or in the trash, unless it was a big event in which case a popcan collector was probably in sight coming for it.

          I also have panhandlers begging me for money all the time. I didnt have any in Michigan, instead they were all popcan men. Walking or riding their bike and collecting cans wherever they could find them. Sure would be nice to turn those panhandlers into popcan men, that not only stop begging but clean up the place and save the environment, its would be a win win win.

          Sign me up for deposit law any day of the week. Heck expand it to anything easily recyclable like water bottles and soup cans.

    • intellivised says:

      @El_Fez: There’s a fine punishable up to $10,000. You’ll see the signs in some gas stations and grocery stores if you are looking.

    • bonzombiekitty says:

      @El_Fez: When driving between Michigan and Indiana, there’s big billboards that say that you’ll get a big fine if you try to return out of state cans and bottles in Michigan.

    • SarasaLuniz says:

      @El_Fez: Yes, returning cans and/or bottles from out of state is fraud. The money you get when you bring back returnables is a return of the deposit paid for the can/bottle (that’s why it says “Deposit 10 cents” or “Deposit 5 cents”). Collecting the deposit on a can that said deposit wasn’t paid on == fraud.

  4. nidolke says:

    Solution: EVERY state should have bottle refunds.

    Added Solution: Make it include more than just carbonated drinks. Include ice tea, lemonade, bottled water, etc.

    • mtaylor924 says:

      @nidolke: And make the deposit/refund the same amount in every state! Imagine how much gas could be saved if people stopped driving across the border from other states just to make a little extra dough.

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @nidolke: Michigan’s looking into putting a deposit on all bottled drinks, since we get back 97% of deposit cans/bottles but nobody recycles their bottled water. I hope it goes through, myself.

    • Grabraham says:


      Better Solution: Get rid of the the deposit and let me toss the empties in my recycle bin each week without taking a loss!

    • BlondeGrlz says:

      @nidolke: We get it on plastic and glass here in CT, which means if people bring beer to your party you can make a nice profit!!

    • loueloui says:


      Amen brother. Think of how many beer bottles and cans you see just laying around, not to mention soft drinks. I can remember waaaay back in the day Florida had a dime deposit on soft drinks. This was back in the 80s, so it was quite a haul back then to find them and bring them in.

  5. Hedgy2136 says:

    First of all, if a significant number of the containers are coming in from out of state, how can they guestimate that they are recovering 97%. Also, beer cans should have some sort of tax stamp embossed into the top (or bottom) indicating their state of origin.

  6. nicemarmot617 says:

    I’m from Michigan. I cannot imagine anything lamer or more cheap-ass than trying to take advantage of a state’s good recycling laws – and they are good, EVERYBODY recycles cans and bottles there. But these out-of-state asswipes didn’t pay that deposit when they bought their cans, so they seriously need to suck it. I’m not sure it counts as fraud, but douchebaggery, for certain. I mean seriously, is there a state with a worse economy than Michigan? All these Wisconsinites and Indianans know that perfectly well. Oh please, take your cans there and steal some more of the money they DON’T have!

    • nidolke says:

      @nicemarmot617: I know it doesn’t change your point much, but you can’t use just any can. It can only be a can from a state with a 5 cent deposit. Cans with no deposit at all won’t work (as far as I know). Barcodes read differently or something.

      • Hedgy2136 says:

        @nidolke: I’ve got a Coke Zero bottle here in GA. It says on it “ME-VT-CT-MA-NY-DE-HI-OR 5¢”

      • PermanentStar says:

        @nidolke: Actually, you can use any can. I’m from Michigan originally, and currently live in Virginia, when I drive back up to Michigan, I inevitably have pop bottles from Virginia with me, which I recycle instead of throwing away. I do get the 10 cent refund on those, but I don’t feel bad because it is usually just maybe 3 or 4 from the trip up, and I can’t stand to throw them out. You just have to bring the can/bottle back to a store that sells the same brand. So, like Pepsi, coke, other national brands work pretty much anywhere, but local stuff won’t.

    • gqcarrick says:

      @nicemarmot617: Wow, I don’t even know what sarcastic comment to say to that whole comment of yours.

    • TheFuzz53 says:


      “is there a state with a worse economy than Michigan?”

      I guess you’ve never been to New Jersey, one of the few hell holes more democratically controlled than Michigan.

    • wattznext says:

      @nicemarmot617: If the point is to get people to recycle, and these people are recycling, i think you are over reacting.

      • John says:

        @wattznext: Actually the point was to get Michiganders to stop throwing their bottles and cans out the windows of their cars and clean up the litter problem. Goes back to the seventies with that fake Indian on TV…

    • frugalgirl says:

      @nicemarmot617: I’m originally from MI and now live down South. It drives me crazy to see all the trash because the state is too cheap to pay .05/can.

      I’ve had to teach myself to not think “oh, ten cents” every time I pass cans. I still pick them up and recycle them though.

      • RedwoodFlyer says:


        The state doesn’t even pay it! You pay the extra 5 or 10 cents a can when you purchase the drink…i.e. deposit.

        In Iowa, it worked out well…people still littered, and veterans would walk around collecting stray cans for Bingo money.

    • Pious_Augustus says:


      Are you kidding me? You the voters of Michagian allow the Democratic Party and your Unions and your far left Liberals control your state and bring it into complete ruin. Detriot also has the local black race baiters which make the city look like a Nuclear holocaust happened and everyone is literally fighting in the Thunderdome.

      I am from Illionis I live in a state where party has taken complete control and turned it into ruin as well not as bad as Michagian but can you blame these people? With higher taxes on everything to support the Democratic Party’s Social Programs yeah people are going to go in the next states for cheaper gas, food and whatever they can get.

      However Indiana is getting a huge tax increase because of the party’s large presence in Gary and such being Chicago has shipped most of it’s Section 8s there who is going to pay for the minorities upkeep seeing they can’t fend for themselves and lawanda needs to get her hair and nails did

      I’m black by the way

    • stinerman says:

      People from Indiana are called Hoosiers.

  7. Eric1285 says:

    I loved the 10 cent bottle refund when I was in school at Michigan. Definitely worth saving up bottles and cans (and picking up after our fraternity parties) to take them in. It usually worked out to about $8 per 13 gallon trash bag full of cans. We would have some parties where we’d go through over 1000 beers, so bringing those cans back was definitely worth it!

  8. MercuryPDX says:

    Why don’t other states raise their deposit to 10¢ or Michigan lower its deposit to 5¢?

    • P_Smith says:

      @MercuryPDX: Better still, instead of inventing “technology”, why don’t Michigan bottlers just label their own during the packaging process?

    • crystalattice says:

      Well, if it’s anything like Hawaii, the state keeps any money that isn’t redeemed. Plus, in Hawaii, they actually charged one cent extra for “administration”, so the 5 cent deposit was actually 6 cents but you only got 5 back.

      So, it was essentially a voluntary tax; you want the drink, you pay the money. And the state made several million a year just in the extra penny. The “deposit office” consisted of just a couple of people, no where near justifying the amount of money they pulled in.

      Additionally, any deposits that weren’t redeemed stayed in the state coffers. So, my guess is that Michigan makes a significant amount of money on non-redemptions; anyone coming from out of state cuts into their “profit”.

      There was a big brouhaha about people coming from the mainland just to redeem their cans. They supposedly installed sensors in their redemption trucks that scanned the barcodes to ensure they were HI-marked. Which also meant that you couldn’t crush the cans to save space.

      Oh yeah, and if you brought more than 50 cans or so, they just weighed them rather than hand count them. There was an investigation into the corruption of that because most people were losing several dollars each time because of incorrect weighing or other shenanigans.

  9. flugelhorn says:

    Here in Oregon we have a 5 cent deposit on cans, glass bottles and now some plastic bottles as well. The state requires all retailers– from supermarkets to neighborhood bodegas– to accept can and bottle returns for deposit.

    Big chains like Safeway and Fred Meyer provide recycling centers with automated machines that print vouchers redeemable for cash at the customer service desk. If the a particular brand is not carried by the retailer, the machines will reject the can / bottle.

    Also, UPCs are Oregon-specific to avoid the type of fraud Michigan’s struggling with:

    “SB 634. Manufacturers would be required to register the different labels on beverage containers offered for sale in Oregon and upon which a deposit is required. The label must bear a UPC specific to Oregon (allows the Board to see which products are for sale in Oregon and is supposed to prevent containers not purchased in Oregon from being refunded). The manufacturer must renew the label if its UPC is revised or if the container on which the label appears is changed in size, composition, or color.”

    Anyhow, I like the deposit. It gives homeless and unemployed a way to make money, and in the process keeps our state clean.

    • csyria says:

      @flugelhorn: I agree, wouldn’t it just be easier for Michigan (not necessarily the bottlers) to just have all the 10¢-deposit-requiring items use a different UPC than the ones from other states?

  10. illtron says:

    I remember when I lived in New York, I’d get charged the deposit on beer I’d buy at the grocery store, but never once did I see any information on how I could reclaim that nickel. Jerks.

    • zibby says:

      @illtron: Yeah…well in New York City at least, you should be able to take the empty back to the place that you bought it for the refund. BUT. Your local Key Food or bodega or whatever probably isn’t going to accept them because of space issues, caravans of career can collectors hanging around, etc. The must be mass redemption centers jusdging from the shopping carts full of cans I see being pulled around, but no, the system isn’t very friendly to the average schmoe that wants to return a couple of flats worth of empties.

      • BeeBoo says:

        @zibby: They have to collect the containers and issue deposit refunds if they sell the stuff, by law. But I have never known of or seen anyone in NYC except for homeless people return containers. It’s just “not done”.

  11. SkokieGuy says:

    Bringing bottles from out of state IS fraud.


  12. twophrasebark says:

    I have a crazy idea.

    Change the refund to a nickel in Michigan.

    Crazy, huh?

  13. post_break says:

    I have seen bums in michigan pick up a can and then throw it back on the ground because it wasnt stamped for 10c haha. Living on the border of michigan makes that 10c rebate tempting but I just go to a recycle place where you get 2c extra on tuesdays and saturdays.

  14. flugelhorn says:

    more info on Oregon’s program (MS Word doc):

    I usually let a couple hundred cans build up before I cash them in…and buy more cheap, domestic lager.

  15. Eilonwynn says:

    my darling grandmother does this – PA to NY.

    • Pious_Augustus says:


      Holy **** she actually takes the highway to New York knowing there is those huge tolls? Going from point a to b is it worth it in tolls?

      • Eilonwynn says:

        @Pious_Augustus: Nah – she lives in a town in NW PA that’s about 20 minutes from a NY tops. No Tolls, but I do wonder if she’s breaking even at all given gas prices and the monster-sized buick she drives.

  16. Anonymous says:

    2nd paragraph says that the state is out $10 mil a year due to out of state redeptions. Later on they say that 97% of all cans and bottles are returned. How can they differentiate – is that 97% propped up by the out of state returns – how can they actually tell?

  17. zentec says:

    Being just a handful of miles from Toledo, I know many people buy their cases of soda and beer at Costco or Sam’s and redeem the containers in Michigan. Fraud, yes, but there’s another issue here.

    Michigan also made it illegal to simply throw beverage containers away regardless of whether a deposit was paid or not. So what do you do now since Michigan has woefully inadequate recycling programs? Sure, you could collect a few hundred cans and take them to a scrap metal dealer, but until you get enough cans that they’re a big enough pain in the neck to make the trip worth it, you get to tolerate the smell and the insects trying to get into your can collection. Oh, you have bottles? Good luck trying to find a place to recycle those. Many of the neighborhood recycling programs have been discontinued. For years I took my bottles to my parents and shoved them into their bins. Worked fine until their contracted waste hauler in a town of 3,000 discontinued the program.

    The state needs to take some of the escheat and create decent recycling programs within easy reach of those who don’t live in major metropolitan areas. You know, like most of the state.

    • post_break says:

      Im from toledo go figure. I sure hope they dont adopt the deposit here though. I would stop buying cans altogether and switch to 2 liters.

      • zentec says:


        Hello neighbor…enjoy games at 5/3rd Field.

        • not_gwen says:

          @zentec: “Michigan also made it illegal to simply throw beverage containers away regardless of whether a deposit was paid or not”
          Really? I live in Michigan and have never heard of this. I actually ate lunch in a state building last week and was fored to throw my pop can in with the regular garbage because there was no special “cans only” container provided (something I see here a lot)

        • post_break says:

          @zentec: Somewhat. Not really a baseball fan but for the price its fun.

          I also don’t enjoy having to drive up to Ann Arbor to get to an Apple store, why they wont build one here is beyond me.

          • zentec says:


            I’ve often thought that, considering that Westfield bills itself as a rather upscale mall — and it’s pretty much the only game in town now anyway.

    • nikkimarie says:

      @zentec: I’m not sure if you are talking about MI when you say MI has a bad recycling program. If you are, it’s the most convenient thing in the world and I don’t see anything wrong with it.

      Just take the cans/bottles/glass to ANY grocery store in MI and there are machines that you shove plastic, can or glass bottles into and it pops out a slip. How is that a bad method?

      • zentec says:


        If they are a bottle that is from another state, you can’t, it’s against the law. And you can’t landfill the containers because that too is against the law.

  18. Hate_Brian_Club_I'mNotOnlyThePresidentI'mAClient says:

    I grew up on the border of Michigan and Indiana and would regularly go over the state line to Indiana for all of my soda and beer needs. Returning a trash bag of sticky bottles to be given back your $1.20 is not worth it. I feel like I’m paying a ransom.

    When I eventually moved to the interior of the state for college I’d buy soda in bulk while visiting my parents and just between you and me, Consumerist, I looked the other way when my roommates who were from the Eastern side of Michigan would take back all of the bottles I didn’t pay a deposit on along with theirs.

  19. crackblind says:

    This also works if you buy beverages in NJ (no deposit) and return it in NY (5 cents). Not as lucrative as the ten cents from Michigan but much easier commute.

    • Papercutninja says:

      I wondered about that, having moved to NJ a couple of years ago. I recycle curbside, but still think about the nickel i could get for all my beer bottles. Conceivably, i could return the cans/bottles when visiting my parents in NY, but then i weigh the cost vs time involved, i decided not to do it. Saving cans/bottles, finding space for them, loading them into the car, standing at a Shoprite for an hour crushing cans in their machines, and then going inside to wait on line while a mouth breather buys their groceries so i can redeem my voucher is just not worth it to me. Especially if i’d get ’bout $3.00 for it.

    • azntg says:

      @crackblind: Cost benefit doesn’t work out there.

      Obviously, there’s gas and tolls involved. This is just an anecdotal stuff, but I think sale prices for both Pathmark and Shop Rite is better in New Jersey than in New York City.

      Just doesn’t pay, whether you redeem it for cash or for merchandise.

  20. Darren W. says:

    The really sad thing is that recycling is mostly bunk. Recycling aluminum is worthwhile, but recycling glass, plastic, or paper causes more environmental damage and expense than it saves.

    • zentec says:

      @Darren W.:

      I’m pretty certain recycling glass saves the energy of having to go out and dig up more silica and the other chemicals used to make glass from sand.

      Dunno about the others.

    • floraposte says:

      @Darren W.: They’re certainly right that it’s an article of faith rather than science in most ways, and that it’s more about self-congratulation than anything else. However, they’re drawing solely–and unquestioningly–on Daniel Bernstein, whose best known work is worth reading and downloadable from []

      But he’s also a serious free-marketeer, and I think his reliance on that notion colors a lot of his work; he’s also not really accounting for the variability that makes some programs pay for themselves and some money sinks. And even he has the conclusion that ” Informed, voluntary recycling conserves resources and raises our wealth, enabling us to achieve valued ends that would otherwise be impossible.” It’s not so much that recycling can’t make sense, it’s that it’s mostly that people don’t practice it because it really does.

    • TMurphy says:

      @Darren W.: I need to watch more of these episodes. The water one was good too.

      In any case, they do make a good argument for questioning the validity of recycling, but considering the idea of the show, they’ll swing some things to look like BS that can actually be good. Not that they’re wrong, but that I’d have to find a lot of additional sources before I make a conclusion. Regardless, it is good stuff.

    • SJChip104 says:

      @Darren W.: Recycling aluminum is worthwhile, but recycling glass, plastic, or paper causes more environmental damage and expense than it saves.


      But as people can see trends (like how the price of oil will eventually go up, who could have seen that one coming?) we can think about setting up SYSTEMS which will be in place for the time when those equations will EVENTUALLY tip the other way.

      Furthermore, the markets aren’t economically sound. For example, the “market value” of old growth forest habitat is very low, IMO, but that’s only because their value(s) don’t have a price tag on them.

    • Alessar says:

      @Darren W.: I grew up in Michigan and when I was a little kid, we had a lot of litter problems from cans and bottles. The 10 cents deposit cleaned up roads and cut down on volume going into land fills. It’s been a big help on that front. I think more states should have a deposit, and a 10 cent one at that.

  21. ganzhimself says:

    If I remember correctly, in Michigan, at least in the UP, all eligible Pepsi cans had gold tops, It was pretty easy to spot the difference in cans and I never dared risk taking my Wisconsin deposit-free cans to Wal-Mart’s machines. The plastic bottles had no difference, and they didn’t have different UPCs, and I believe that bottles bought in Wisconsin say MI – 10 on them. I always stocked up on soda in Wisconsin because it was cheaper and I just dumped my recycling down the recycling chute in my dorm. Since my parents lived in WI, I always stocked up on trips home and they always brought me plenty of soda when they came to visit. It certainly wasn’t worth keeping bags and bags worth of recyclables in an already crowded dorm room. For the few times I bought soda in MI, I did return the bottles or cans, but overall, a royal PITA compared to just tossing the cans into a recycling bin.

  22. funkfrost says:

    In Alberta, coming November 1st, the deposit of cans are going from $0.05 to $0.10, and the bottles over 1 litre are going $0.10 to $0.25 is of course my mom been saving them since they announced this. Worse is that my mom been saving milk containers in the shed, because they are getting a 10 cents deposit next year. However I am glad about the increase of deposit, it might help people recycle more.

  23. RandomHookup says:

    I don’t understand this…how can a company be penalized for picking up more containers than they delivered? Isn’t that always a possibility that one store might have more returns than sales (longer hours, easier to redeem)? Why should the distributor be penalized for that imbalance and why should they be rewarded if people don’t return enough cans? Sounds like a process issue to me, especially since the returns are less than 100% of the sold cans.

  24. forgottenpassword says:

    Makes me wish I lived on the MI border. As I would DEFINATELY be one of those who took advantage.

    We get a pittance for cans here in MO, but I still save mine up.

  25. Michael says:

    Several distributors send their cans and bottles to various states in the Great Lakes region, including Michigan. For example, the same cans that get sent to Wisconsin and Indiana will likely get sent to Ohio and Michigan. If you look closely, the bottles will say something to the effect of “5 cents in the following states….10 cents in MI…and cash refund in California…”

    Never understood the cash refund in California appearing on bottles/cans that are distributed in the Midwest myself

  26. Gopher bond says:

    As long as Michigan is more than surrounding areas, people who find it worthwhile are going to attempt to redeem them in Michigan irregardless* of purchase area. Fraud or not. That’s just human nature. It’s the same reason the leave a penny/take a penny trays always have pennies in them but the leave a hundred/take a hundred jars are always empty. I wonder how much all the methods they implement to prohibit the action will cost.

    *I know it’s non-standard English but I make a concerted effort to push standard use of all non-standard word derivatives.

    • Con Seannery says:

      @testsicles: Irregardless would be with regards to, as regardless is without regard to. Therefore, irregardless invalidates your argument.

      • Gopher bond says:

        @Con Seannery: not true smartass, look it up in the dictionary, it’s like flammable and inflammable, regardless and irregardless mean the same thing, only irregardless is designated “non standard”.

        • Con Seannery says:

          @testsicles: Wrong, my good sir. The suffix -less in the word regardless makes it mean “without regard to”, or simply “without regard”. The prefix ir-, used in words such as irrevocable, effectively inverts the meaning, making irregardless mean the same as with regard given to. Why don’t you use that effort to push the use of proper English rather than these polluting abominations?

  27. CumaeanSibyl says:

    I suppose that’s no worse than when I run over the border to Indiana for tax-free smokes.

  28. strayxray says:

    As an ex-Michigan resident, I have mixed feelings about the deposit. It adds a significant “cost”, since $0.10 a can adds up. Yes, you can get your money back. But to get all of your money back, you have to keep smelly cans around, find a store that accepts your cans (which cannot be crushed in most locations and must be one of the brands that store stocks), and remember to haul your wet cans back from work. It is a huge hassle.

    Whenever I had bought a few cans from Indiana, I never had a second thought about redeeming them in Michigan. First, the number of people I knew that “recycled” their cans without redeeming the deposit was quite high (in Ann Arbor at least). Second, I frequently didn’t want to haul wet cans back and forth from work since the residue would invariably get drips of coke everywhere.

    It was absolutely FANTASTIC when it came to litter. There are NO cans littered about anywhere in Michigan. There are hordes of homeless that use this revenue and extract every can from the ground and trash.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I live near the Michigan border in Indiana and my parents save their cans. They don’t make a special trip just to cash cans, but they take a load up there to cash in whenever they’re in the area. It’s a pain though, there’s a limit on how much you can cash in at one time. So, if you have a lot you need to go to multiple locations.

  30. yetiwisdom says:

    Once upon a time I practiced this small-time between a non-deposit and deposit state … but with the price of gas it’s no longer worth the drive.

    And to those who say it’s not worth it to have the critters trying to get into your recycle stash – all you need to do is piss all over it. That keeps ’em away.

    Kidding. Just Kidding, Folks!

  31. AMetamorphosis says:

    Since the program is inconsistant state to state, therin lies the problem.

    Either mandate across the board ( country ) deposits or get rid of them entirely.

    Problem solved.

  32. smallestmills says:

    Heh, I live in MI and I’m so lazy that instead of returning the deposits I just bag ’em and set them on the curb (separate from the trash) on trash day. Someone always grabs them before trash pick up. Hooray for laziness!

  33. cheera says:

    Those bottle deposits make it worth having to wash the floor after parties.

  34. Angryrider says:

    Why haven’t they raised the deposit yet? It’s been the same thing for at least 30 years. I remember my science teacher talking about a killing he made from selling bottles and cans back in the 60s or something.

  35. Gopher bond says:

    I still like getting returnable bottles but there very hard to find now. Some breweries and local soda bottlers may use them but I guess it’s a pain in the rump for them anymore. Seems like getting back to that would solve much of this nonsense.

  36. calquist says:

    Iowa already has this. If I buy things in Illinois, they won’t work in the Iowa machines.

  37. Con Seannery says:

    Newman, you magnificent bastard, you’ve done it!

  38. EBounding says:

    The point of the bottle deposit law was to reduce road litter. I personally see just as much litter in Michigan as I do in Ohio. Maybe they could just enforce the littering laws instead? Nah, a complicated and costly system of returning bottles makes more sense.

    • econobiker says:

      @EBounding: You can thank plastic grocery bags for alot of that litter. So much so that I think CA is wanting to have a deposit on those. (In many 3rd world countries, the plastic grocery bag is the new disposable toilet in extremely poor shanty towns…)

      Alot of roadside litter is also fast food stuff which is foretunately alot more paper based than the styrofoam clam shells of twenty years ago…

  39. Ninjanice says:

    I live in Michigan and I’m with nicemarmot here. Michigan’s recycling program is something we can be proud of- and things to be proud of are getting to be fewer and farther between in these parts! It really takes a douche bag to try to make money off of our bottle and can recycling program. First of all, there’s the whole fraud angle but also the fact that you cannot make decent money off of it. Most places have a daily limit for returnables-typically $25 at places that have machines that count your returns and $5 at places where they still count them by hand. Even if you plan to go to several stores to do your returns, $25 worth of bottles and cans takes up a lot of space. If I have a cart full of cans and bottles, I’ll usually get about $10.

    • Pious_Augustus says:


      Thats right we need more social programs to bankrupt the state of Michagian besides all Michagian Residents love the poor areas and the small 1 bedroom homes and empty factories and cities that look like they been hit by a Nuclear Bomb


  40. Corporate_guy says:

    They recover 97% of containers. There is no way for them to differentiate from out of state containers and proper in-state containers. Doesn’t that mean that they are not actually losing money? Wouldn’t they have to be recovering over 100% for them to be losing money?

    • Gopher bond says:

      @Corporate_guy: Hmm, you seem to be onto something. They say they’re program is a success since 97% of all Michigan deposits are returned. Yet they go on to say that they are losing money because they are returning the deposit on a significant amount of out-of-state cans and bottles as they have no way of telling the difference between the two.

      I think you should declare shenanigans.

  41. RobertW.TX says:

    I have a problem with their final statistic of 97% recovery. If they have people returning containers from out of state that should throw off their figures. I can think of a couple of ways to clean up the statistics but I doubt if any of them have been used.

  42. ajresch says:

    The trick to getting away with it is to not bring in so many cans that the store owners get suspicious.

    Spread the returns out between stores, and over a period of time.

    Also, I’m from Wisconsin and went to school in Michigan, so I didn’t lose any “profit margin” on gas, because I’d make the trip anyways.

    This is all hypothetical of course… :D

  43. azntg says:

    I thought they already had distinguishing features for cans and bottles.

    While I don’t see this anymore, I used to see “NEW YORK” conspicuously printed somewhere on aluminum cans.

    Whenever I’d get a free can of soda from my neighborhood takeout, I wouldn’t be able to redeem it at my Pathmark’s can/bottle deposit machines. I surmised that the barcode was different. Otherwise, how would the machine take up the can of Sprite I bought from Pathmark, but not take up the can of Sprite I got from the takeout?

  44. TheSpatulaOfLove says:

    I live in MI and DESPISE the empties thing. It’s absolutely filthy and totally not worth it. I would much rather just use a recycling bin!

  45. mbz32190 says:

    I like Maine’s idea with the card system…not only does this prevent fraud, but it makes it easier to spend whatever money you get back. It’s probably an expensive system to implement though. If only PA had a deposit policy like this..well I guess I can take my cans to NY. Oh wait, nevermind.

  46. wcnghj says:

    I live in Maine and not once have I been asked for an address to return bottles.

  47. BlondeGrlz says:

    In CT, our automatic recycling machines reject out of state cans. My mom came to visit from VA and brought a case of Diet Coke. Her cans got mixed in with mine and when I went to recycle the whole bag, exactly 12 Diet Cokes were rejected. The technology must exist, why can’t Michigan use it?

  48. iameleveneight says:

    While I would never ever make a special trip to MI to return cans, half my family lives there so if I have cans that say MI refund on them, I bring em with.

  49. Tsubasa says:

    Having moved from MI to UT a couple years ago, one thing I DEFINITELY don’t miss is hand-feeding all my sticky pop cans into stupid counting machines every time I went to the store to get my deposit back. I still recycle every single can… but I can just chuck them in my mega recycling bin at home. It’s so much less work.

    I remember my out-of-state roommate in college being very shocked as to why the two items she bought at the store rang up as three… had to explain the deposit system. She thought there was some kind of fraud going on.

  50. BeeBoo says:

    You can buy soda with food “stamps” in Michigan, including the deposit, but you get credit back when you return them. Some people buy soda, dump it out, return the cans, and use the credit to buy beer, all on the taxpayers’ dime.

  51. johnarlington says:

    If MI was paying out greater than the money they receive, I’d say its still a money maker for the state. 3% of deposits never get paid out. I would guess that the fraud is negligible.

  52. scoosdad says:

    But isn’t the act of returning cans bought in a non-deposit state to any of the ones that offers a 5 cent deposit refund, the same thing as returning a 5 cent can in 10-cent Michigan? So why is Michigan making such a fuss when practically none of the other deposit-offering states seem too upset about their out-of-state moochers?

    It happens everywhere. Suck it up, Michigan.

  53. G-Dog says:

    Grew up in southwest Michigan, near South Bend, Indiana. In the South Bend Meijer stores, the Faygo and Meijer brand pop was bottled in Michigan and had the MI 10 Cent stamp on the top. I forget the exact numbers but both brands would go on-sale from time to time, making 12 packs about a dollar if you redeemed the deposit.

  54. Meathamper says:

    Next they’re gonna register cans for each state. I can only imagine it now:

    Recycle Guy: I can’t refund this for you.
    Me: Why?
    Recycle Guy: This code here in 1000X magnification says you bought it in Canada.
    Me: Oh, fuck.

  55. Ein2015 says:

    The whole $0.10/$0.05 this is absolutely stupid!

    Here in Texas, we usually have curb-side trash pickup. Would it be that hard to have curb-side recycling pickup? No. But why isn’t it more wide-spread? Because there’s no incentive to separate trash.

    However, if you got some sort of prize (such as $0.10 per bottle, but not as strict nor as stupid as these state-specific ones) then it’d be worth it. Pay a “deposit” by the WEIGHT of the container, then get money back (or taken off your trash bill) for the WEIGHT recycled! SIMPLE! (And come on, it wouldn’t be hard to integrate a system to weigh and record the different trashcans since most curb-side pickups are done via machine anyway these days.)

    Finally, when you look at places like Michigan, is it really helping the environment to have to create all sorts of new specialized machinery FOR EVERY GROCERY STORE (and wherever else required) on top of creating NEW MICHIGAN-SPECIFIC CONTAINERS? Seriously? It sounds more like a “waste lots of money, tax more, tell people you’re being green, doing what they want, etc, get re-elected, repeat” sort of deal. It sounds like needless EXPLOSION in government bloat. Who’s going to regulate all this crap? And when your recycling depends on WHERE you purchased the plastic bottle, you’re already going down the wrong path and have lost sight of the whole REASON to recycle.

    • oneandone says:

      @Ein2015: Recyclebank does this. It’s in some parts of Pennsylvania and maybe it’s spread since then. Curbside pickup for all your recycling (in one bin), weighed by the truck. You get about $5 per 25 lbs of recyclables, credited to an account. It’s not really $, it’s points, but you can redeem them at grocery stores and similar places.


      Looking at their website, I see that it’s in several states now. It’s dependent on a super-cool automated single-stream recycling and reselling the materials to raw materials suppliers.

      There are also some checks in place to make sure you’re not putting bricks into your recycle bin.

      • rsfrid says:

        It really has made a huge difference in Michigan. As a long time resident, I was involved with the decision to enact the bottle bill and since then lots of homeless folks make a decent living (for them) from garbage picking and cleaning (selectively) roadsides. I believe the 97% thing because of the high homeless and welfare populations in Michigan. I have seen (and recognize) the same persons visiting “their” chosen trash cans every morning over the course of the year. Good for them. We do recycle, especially in my community, and the volume of recycled materials is staggering. We don’t have curbside pickup except for lawn waste (get that, we actually seperate and collect grass clippings, veggie materials, etc. place them in bags we purchase at nearby stores, and place at the curb where the city collects them, recycles them and provides the compost for free to residents. It’s common to see 50-100 bags of leaves out for pick up this time of year.) Doesn’t everyone do this? Or does your communitie’s recyclable waste go in landfills?

  56. RedwoodFlyer says:

    FWIW, at the University of Iowa, we noticed how many people in the dorm threw away cans….since they had no car and no way of taking them anywhere. I proposed that we put a big collection box downstairs by the big trash dump…and donate the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity or someone..but apparently that’s not allowed since empty cans and bottles are considered a monetary unit.

    We would have had to implement the proper cash handling procedures and blah blah blah.

    Of course, there were the same rules that c-blocked my efforts to raise $$ for Katrina victims even though I managed to get enough companies onboard to do a 7-1 match…as in we collect $1…and an extra $7 gets donated to the Red Cross.

  57. jgonzz says:

    “Michigan says that 97% of containers are recovered..”

    Anyone Consumerist reader that studied Stats in college knows that the above statement is moronically imposable…

    Who are they kidding….?

  58. David in Brasil says:

    I buy my soda in Indiana and take the cans to Michigan just to throw them on the ground, so I’m getting a kick out of these replies….

  59. lilacorchid says:

    I lived in a border town and they just checked IDs to make sure that people weren’t bringing in cans from out of province. It’s not fool proof, but it’s easier than changing laws, etc.

  60. randomizer9 says:

    I miss soda in glass bottles.