LANSING, MI (WTVB) - Returning non-Michigan bottles and cans to retailers for the 10-cent refund could soon lead to a jail term or fines, under legislation debated Tuesday by a House committee of which Representative Ken Kurtz of Coldwater is a member.
However, Kurtz yesterday said the intention of the measure is not to send people to prison, but to send an alert to the public that offenders will be held accountable. According to Kurtz, the dimes do add up awfully quickly and he said he’s aware of many businesses that are in the hole because of such returns and curbing such losses is what this bill intends to do.
If passed, the bill taken up by the House Regulatory Reform Committee would make returning or attempting to return more than 10,000 beverage containers that were not bought in Michigan a five-year, $5,000 felony. Those attempting to return between 25 and 100 non-returnable containers would be hit with a $100 civil fine. Those trying to return 25 to 1,000 out-of-state containers would be hit with a 93-day, $1,000 misdemeanor. A second offensive would be a one-year, $2,000 misdemeanor. Angela Madden of the Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers told the Committee some retailers continue to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. Businesses along border areas like Branch County appear to be worst hit by the problem. While an existing law requires high-volume beverage manufacturers to affix a unique mark to their containers for the purpose of refunds, many retailers have not taken advantage of this technology because of the costs involved. Most bottle return machines can only tell the brand and size of container but not the state of purchase.
Some committee members expressed concern over the jail-term associated with the offense, at a time when the State is trying to reduce the prison costs and population. The committee did not vote on the legislation Tuesday but is expected to take it up before the end of the month.