In a scheme straight out of a Seinfeld episode, a Michigan man was arrested and charged for trying to return more than 10,000 non-refundable bottles purchased in a different state. The individual was stopped for speeding in Livingston County. The Michigan State Police Officer became curious after noticing a large quantity of bottles in the vehicle. Upon questioning, it became clear that the gentleman had acquired more than 10,000 non-returnable bottles from other states, and planned to return them to stores in Michigan to claim the ten-cent per bottle refund. As a result of this plot, the driver has been charged with one count of beverage return of non-refundable bottles.
Under Michigan’s Beverage Containers Act, a person cannot return or attempt to return a beverage container the person knows was not purchased in Michigan as a filled returnable container. Anyone attempting to return 10,000 or more nonreturnable containers can be found guilty of a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine not to exceed $5,000. Individuals who return more than between 100 and 10,000 nonreturnable containers face a misdemeanor charge with up to 93 days in jail, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both. For those who return between 25 and 100 nonreturnable containers, the penalty is a civil fine of not more than $100.00.
Of all of the states which have bottle deposit bills, Michigan has the highest refund value according to statistics from the Container Recycling Institute. Nine states have bottle refund laws. California has a 10-cent refund on bottles that are 24 ounces or larger, with smaller bottles providing for a 5-cent refund. Main and Vermont have bottle bills which provide a 15-cent deposit on liquor bottles, and 5-cents on all other beverages except dairy products. The remaining states all provide a 5-cent per bottle refund.
While a get-rich-quick bottle refund scam may be the stuff of sitcom legend, this gentleman now faces a felony conviction with serious consequences, which is no laughing matter!