Meijer tests bottle returns ahead of June 15 reopening

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After shutting down for more than two months, bottle return areas at certain Meijer stores are starting to hum to back to life.

A Meijer spokesperson says select stores throughout Michigan are testing new procedures for bottle and can returns ahead of Monday’s reopening. Meijer plans to release guidelines for customers planning to return bottles and cans later this week.

Recycling processor Schupan and Sons, Inc. says more than 600 million depositable containers have piled up in Michigan since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer deemed the service non-essential in a March 24 executive order aimed at curbing coronavirus. That order has since been lifted.

The Michigan Department of Treasury announced last week that retailers exclusively using reverse vending machines housed in a separate area or at the front of their store must start accepting bottles and cans on June 15.

The state is also giving retailers the option to roll out the following restrictions:

• Limit the number of beverage containers that may be returned to $25 for each person per day.
• Establish special or limited hours of operation for bottle return facilities.
• Limit the number of available and operating reverse vending machines.
• Periodically close bottle deposit facilities as needed for cleaning and supply management.
• Implement such other procedures or restrictions as each retailer may determine are necessary or advisable to promote safety and/or efficiency.

Schupan and Sons, Inc. expects to spend 20 to 25 weeks working through the glut of containers, even with employees working longer hours. The company says some stores think it could take up to a year to get caught up.