Michigan Aims to Halt Out-of-State Recyclers

By Sugee Kim
|  Thursday, Feb 21, 2013  |  Updated 11:47 AM EDT
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Michigan Aims to Halt Out-of-State Recyclers

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View of empty cans to be recycled.

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You may have to think twice before recycling cans and bottles in Michigan. 

Michigan lawmakers debated Tuesday legislation that would fine or even jail those who attempt to cash in on the state’s recycling refund by using out-of-state cans and bottles, The Associated Press reported.

The state offers 10 cents per container, double the refund offered by such other states with a similar policy as New York, Delaware, Hawaii and Vermont. Michigan's neighboring states - Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois - have not passed a container deposit refund law, allowing people to collect out-of-state can and bottles, only to get paid for them in Michigan.

The 10-cent refund was the subject of a 1996 episode of "Seinfeld"  - Kramer and Newman plotted to bring thousands of empty cans and bottles into Michigan on a postal truck to get the bigger 10-cent deposit.

The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers Association estimated Michigan loses up to $13 million a year from out-of-state cans in the state's high recycling refund.

Four counties in Michigan, two in southern Michigan and two in the western Upper Peninsula, have already taken action to prevent fraud bottles from being refunded, according to the Detroit Free Press. At a cost of $5,000 per machine, they have purchased new technology that identifies and will reject the container if it was purchased out-of-state.

The new legislation proposes a penalty of a $100 fine for returning 25 to 100 nonreturnable containers, a $1,000 fine for returning 100 to 10,000 nonreturnable containers, and jail time of up to 93 days for a second conviction, according to the AP.

"I don't want to put people in prison for this," State Rep. Kenneth Kurtz told the Detroit Free Press. "But I want to send the message that you don't want to defraud the citizens of our state."

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