We've all been a part of the evolution of bottle deposit returns in Michigan... manual counting by a store employee for a cartload to automated machines we fed ourselves. That 10 cents per bottle or can added up quickly for lunch or enough gas to get you to work for a day. (Speaking of food, you should check out this bucket list of Genesee County Restaurants--one in every city/town and this one for Lapeer County, here.)

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Is it illegal to return bottles or cans from another state without bottle deposits?

Yes. It turns out there's a lot of bottle return fraud from states that border those with bottle deposits. (We're looking at you Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.)

  • According to a story by ABC12 late 2021, new legislation was passed to punish people with a felony, five to 20 years prison time.
  • What's more... any retailer involved in a scheme gets penalties, too.
  • It's so bad, the State of Michigan has set aside $1 Million annually for police enforcement of bottle deposit return fraud.

How many bottles are you legally allowed to return per day in Michigan?

  • You're allowed to return however many bottles you want, per day. That said, retailers are not expected to refund more than $25.00 per customer, per day.
  • So, you can return 250 bottles to Kroger in Grand Blanc. Then another 250 bottles to Meijer in Burtn. Then, another 250 bottles to Wal-Mart in Clio. Then you could return another 250 to as many party stores around Genesee County as you'd like... in one day.
  • If a store decides to allow more bottles accepted per day, that's up to them.

Why isn't there a bottle return for bottled water in Michigan?

  • This one eludes me. No idea why a state with so many beaches and lakes would NOT have a bottle deposit for plastic and canned water. It's the largest pollutant we have (around the world) let alone in our state.

What do I do if a store won't accept bottle returns?

From the FAQ on the Michigan.gov website:

First, contact the store manager about the situation. If the store still will not accept containers that are clean, clearly labeled as deposit containers, and sold by the retailer, contact the Michigan Department of Attorney General's, Consumer Protection Division to file a complaint or call 1-877-765-8388.

When did bottle deposits become law in Michiagn?

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