Michigan recyclables can be returned after 3-month hiatus

Coronavirus

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Recyclable items can once again be returned for cash in Michigan after an almost three-month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is great news for those who didn’t stop collecting bottles, cans and plastics in the meantime.

Joe Potchea of Okemos, was among those happy to reclaim storage space Monday.

“My wife was pressing me to get these out of our garage,” Potchea said, wielding his receipts for $22.40 worth of returnables he took to a Meijer supermarket.

People line up outside a Family Fare in Wyoming to return cans and bottles. (June 15, 2020)

The mountains of recycling started to accumulate on March 23, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suspended returns in an executive order to limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. The state treasury estimates Michigan residents accumulated $67 million in deposits in the nearly three months while returns were not allowed.

The dollars add up in Michigan, which has among the highest return values in the country at 10 cents per item. Meijer stores put a $25 limit on bottle returns per visit and is distancing customers.

Long lines of people gathered at grocery stores and other return sites, despite continued efforts to encourage social distancing. Places of business can deny customers entrance if they do not wear a face mask.

When Whitmer announced earlier this month that bottle returns would resume, Todd Weer, senior vice president of stores at Meijer, asked for patience.

“We know there is an abundance of beverage containers waiting to be recycled, so we’re asking all of our customers to please be patient and respectful toward each other as we deal with a volume of returnable containers that we’ve never seen before,” Weer said in a news release.

Customers also returned in droves Monday to Michigan’s just-reopened barber shops and hair salons.

Mandi Streeter, who owns BASE Hair Studio in Royal Oak, likened it to the first day of school.

“I was a little nervous. You want to make sure everyone’s comfortable when you come back,” said Streeter, who is booked up through mid-July.

Mario Gonzales, whose Bad Boys Barber shop also is in Royal Oak, said he booked three weeks’ worth of appointments in only two hours.

“I extended my hours, and I added on some days to try to get back to the norm and get everybody’s hair length back to what it used to be,” Gonzales said.

Streeter was also planning to work a seven-day week.

“My social life is gone,” she said. “But that’s OK, because my clients will no longer have gray hair, and I will have an income again.”

Anna Liz Nichols is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Know something newsworthy? Report It!