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
[AP]