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Yes you can. Bottles and cans are a great way to stash some extra cash in Michigan, but you can also put them to good causes.

MICHIGAN — College football season is back underway, and that means lots of beers, and lots of cans. For canners, those who collect and redeem cans and bottles for cash, you could get a lot of money back going forward, as recently reported by WKAR.

Michigan reopened bottle and can redemption centers June 15, 2020, after an 11-week shutdown, but limitations on how many containers retailers remained that frustrated some Michiganders. As of October 2020, however, the state scrapped all bottle and can return limitations.

At this point, you should be able to return cans and bottles without any restrictions.

In June 2021, the state Treasury Department reissued an order reminding businesses that bottle return stations are required to be back and fully functional. Any business that sells beverage containers that fall under this rule are required to take back cans and bottles, per the state Treasury. In accordance with state law, redemption centers in Michigan can limit the hours or amount of donations they accept per day.

Michigan is one of only 10 states in the country to offer money back for used cans and bottles, a program that developed out of state recycling efforts in the 1970s. Its 10 cent returns are among the most generous amounts.

According to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), it’s estimated that Michiganders stockpiled 800 million containers, worth $80 million in deposits, during the nearly three months redemption centers were closed.

At that time, to help ’Ganders cash in on the reestablished program, we tapped some insider knowledge to identify best practices for redeeming bottle and can deposits post-shutdown. Those practices can help you out now, as cans crowd lawns and garages during the fall season.

First, we checked back in with Isabella Borruso, the Grand Ledge high school senior who collected $10,000 worth of empties for charity during quarantine, to see how she’s dealt with the massive hoard that takes up four garages and three storage units. 

Catch her story here:

“So far I have returned about $5,000 worth of my haul,” she told The ’Gander. “It took a lot of waiting in line, some help from friends and family, and lots of trips back and forth to fill my car. I took [my returnables] to the Grand Ledge Meijer. It has taken me since the day they opened going almost daily to get those returned.” 

Borruso said she’s had good luck at the Grand Ledge Meijer. 

“I only once have had the store not accept due to hitting capacity,” she said. “The Grand Ledge Meijer has a pretty good system: Once the bins are halfway full, they call for more so they don’t run into a capacity problem. They also added to their machine barcode scanning so that it will accept more cans than it did in the past.” 

Borruso’s $10,000 is going toward Lansing’s Out of the Darkness Walk with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)

“I am still taking donations, but I’ve stopped picking them up temporarily while I finish taking the ones I have back,” Borruso said. “So as long as they are dropped off to me, I’ll take them!”

Dos and Don’ts at the Bottle Return

Meijer released some tips for returning bottles and cans to make the process as smooth as possible, whether you have $10,000 worth of containers to return like Borruso or just a couple bags’ worth: 

  • Separate your bottles and cans before coming to the store to help keep the flow of customers moving.
  • Drain all cans and bottles and place them in clean bags/containers before coming to the store.
  • Only bring beverage container brands that are sold at Meijer stores.
  • Understand the maximum amount of returnable beverage containers is $25 each visit.
  • Plan accordingly before you arrive as the bottle return rooms will be busy.
  • Please be patient, practice social distancing, and wear a face covering.

Or, Skip the Lines and Donate

If you’re starting to think that braving the bottle return may not be worth all the hassle, there are many organizations across the state running ongoing bottle and can drives that would happily accept your donated containers: 

Alano Club of Kent County 

1020 College Ave NE 

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

For over 65 years, the Alano Club of Kent County’s mission has been to serve those recovering from addiction by providing a welcoming place for support meetings and fellowship. The Club mottos embody their welcoming spirit: “Keep coming back;” “We’ll save a seat for you;” and “Stronger together.”

You can donate cans or plastic bottles from 8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Monday through Friday. Organizers ask you to remove any glass bottles from your donation.  

Day Dreams Farms Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation 

7731 Morrow Road

Cottrellville Twp., MI  48039

This equine rescue center’s ongoing can and bottle drive provides valuable income to help feed rescued horses and donkeys. Bottles and cans can be dropped off at the farm, or staff can pick up larger quantities. A bin is provided at the front of the farm.

The Drew Crew: Joining the Fight Against Paralysis 

Orchard Grove Community Church 

850 Ladd Rd Building C 

Walled Lake, MI 48390

The Drew Crew is a non-profit organization focused on helping individuals and families that have suffered a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury. 

Bring donations to the back of Orchard Grove Community Church, next to the loading dock. Text 248-761-5000 to arrange a special pickup. 

Mosh Pit Rescue 

1731 Woodworth St NE 

Grand Rapids, MI 49525 

Founded in 2017 with the goal of fostering and adopting out male pit bulls, Mosh Pit Rescue’s mission has expanded to include all kinds of dogs, kittens, cats, and even a domestic bunny found under a dumpster — but they’ll always be pit bull advocates.

They have drop off locations in Plainfield Township across from Meijer, Cedar Springs, Alger Heights, and Ada, and depending on volunteer availability can sometimes pick up too. Message organizers through Mosh Pit Rescue’s Facebook page to coordinate donation drop off/pick up. 

Ronald McDonald House of Mid-Michigan 

121 South Holmes Street 

Lansing, MI 48912

The Ronald McDonald House provides families with a place they can have home-cooked meals, a place for siblings to play, and a comfortable space to sleep close to the hospital room where they spend countless hours with a sick child. 

Donations may be dropped off at the House between 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in the front entryway on the donation cart. You can also ship your donation.

If none of these work, the state encourages you to recycle clean empty bottles and cans rather than throw them away.