Lansing — Many Michigan retailers will be required to start refunding consumers' returnable plastic and glass bottle as well as can deposits beginning June 15, the Michigan Treasury Department said Monday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration had banned bottle and can returns in late March as a way of trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Families resorted to storing their bottles and cans in garages and other places, while community groups tried to take advantage of the situation by offering to accept donations of the accumulating beverage containers.

But consumers can start getting their 10-cent refunds on each recyclable bottle or can in two weeks. 

The order applies to most retailers — those with "bottle return facilities located at the front of the store or housed in a separate area and serviced exclusively by reverse vending machines requiring minimal or no person-to-person contact," the Treasury Department said in a Monday statement. 

Retailers will be allowed to set certain limits on daily bottle returns, but they must adhere to coronavirus safety protocols.

They include limiting individuals to getting a maximum total refund of $25 a day in returnable beverage containers, setting special or limited hours for bottle returns, periodically closing the bottle deposit facilities for cleaning and "supply management," as well as limiting the number of operating "reverse vending machines."

"During this initial phase, retailers must limit the volume of weekly returned beverage containers to no more than 140% of their average weekly collection volume for the period April and May 2019," the Treasury Department said.

The state agency promised to share details about the next phases of re-establishing bottle deposit returns "in the near future."

The decision was welcomed by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, which noted the Michigan Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund relies on unclaimed deposits to fund cleanup of contaminated sites. 

The state policy — which allows 75% of unclaimed deposits to go to cleanup efforts — was paused during the suspension of the state bottle return program. In 2018, the state reported about $42 million in unclaimed bottle deposits.

“Reinstating the bottle return program will help boost the critical funding needed for toxic contamination cleanup efforts statewide and help protect the health and safety of all Michiganders," said Lisa Wozniak, the league's executive director.

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