Meijer leadership is requesting patience from customers as they deal with a volume of returnable containers that they've never seen before. We've got some insight and tips from people handling a whole lot of returnables on how to make the process easier on everyone. (Photo via Meijer Newsroom)
Meijer leadership is requesting patience from customers as they deal with a volume of returnable containers that they've never seen before. We've got some insight and tips from people handling a whole lot of returnables on how to make the process easier on everyone. (Photo via Meijer Newsroom)

If you’re still burdened with bottles, check out these tips from our expert recycler and insiders — or just donate them to a good cause.

MICHIGAN — Still got a big collection of bottles and cans cluttering up your garage, ’Ganders? Michigan reopened bottle and can redemption centers June 15 after an 11-week shutdown, but limitations on how many containers retailers can redeem per week are frustrating some Michiganders’ attempts at turning their empties into cold, hard cash.  

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. To help ’Ganders get at their $80 mil, we tapped some insider knowledge to identify best practices for redeeming bottle and can deposits post-shutdown. 

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.” 

Like every other redemption center in Michigan, the Grand Ledge Meijer only allows recyclers to return $25 worth of containers per day. Even so, Borruso is halfway to redeeming her $10,000, which will go 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 has released some tips for returning bottles and cans to make the process as smooth as possible, whether you have $10k 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.

“These last few months have posed numerous challenges, but we appreciate the patience of all our customers and team members as we navigated through them together,” said Todd Weer, Meijer Senior Vice President of Stores. “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.”

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. PM 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.