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With bottle and can returns on hold, Michigan recyclers worry about massive backlog

Michiganders could be holding onto more than $50 million worth of containers

DETROIT – Since the beginning of the stay at home order, many people have been hoarding bottles and cans without any place to deposit them and the piles of plastics, and glass are accumulating fast.

According to one local recycler, Michiganders could be holding onto more than $50 million worth of containers and it is only going up each day to the tune of 70 million containers per week. But industry leaders say not to worry, they will be good for those dimes when collection reopens.

“The retailers have all the dimes, that the consumers have been paying in when the governor allows the bottle deposit system to start operating good consumers will get the dimes back,” Spencer Nevins with the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesaler Association said.

The MBWWA is in charge of collecting most of those containers and says once collections start they’re going to handle volume nearly 300 percent its normal rate, in conjunction with another collection partner.

“First the retailers on the front end. Being able to handle all the consumers bringing those containers back they have to have a way to handle that,” Nevins said. Recyclers also say they need a little time to ramp up to handle the extra volume.

Michigan is the only state of the ten so called 10-cent-states not collecting bottles and cans right now and it is having a national effect. Because Michigan has one of the highest deposit rates in the country, much of the state’s recycled containers are used elsewhere across the country. With demand up national materials groups have been pushing for a return to collection.

“While the deposit states consume about a quarter of all beverage cans, they generate more than a third of all cans recycled. It is important that we find a way to keep this vital material flowing while maintaining strong public health guidelines,” Tom Dobbins, president & CEO of the Aluminum Association, said in a joint release with other materials groups late last month.

All those bags of sticky, smelly containers is raising concerns for store owners, looking ahead to warmer weather, who’ve had to collect bottles and cans during the pandemic without anyone to take them.

“There's going to be ants. There's going to be roaches. I'm going to have an extra employee here. I'd rather have the state make stations and keep our store clean,” owner of Chene-Trombley Market, Sam Kassav said. Kassav, 67, had dozens of boxes and bags of bottles and cans in the store’s basement. He said he was also worried about catching the coronavirus from those used containers.

According to Local4’s Dr. Frank McGeorge the worry over whether the virus can live on those containers is the same as any other hard surface.

“Most of these cans and bottles have been sitting around for so many weeks that even if there was a virus on them, it would have died long ago,” McGeorge said.

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 51,915 as of Monday, including 4,915 deaths, state officials report.