Governments' Lighter Side

Warning: Soda can smugglers will be prosecuted

Michigan gets tough on illegal recyclables

Smugglers, beware, authorities in Michigan are fed up with your illegal cross-border activities. So if you try to get a cash refund on out-of-state soda cans and bottles, you could go to jail, according to the Detroit Free Press.

No, really, they’re serious. The Michigan Beer and Wine Wholesalers estimates the state loses about $8 million a year in deposits paid out for cans and bottles purchased outside the state.

That’s because under the state’s bottle deposit law, to encourage recycling, soda purchasers pay an extra dime for every can or bottle. You get that dime back when you return the container for recycling. But soda can smugglers are short-circuiting that process, apparently, by crossing the border with thousands of illegal containers to cash in on the free dime.

Michigan legislators this week debated a new bill to stiffen the state’s current law against getting a refund for containers that were not purchased in Michigan. The new measure would add criminal penalties for even attempting (“Don’t even think about it!”) to return nonreturnable containers, according to the Free Press. The penalty: Up to 93 days in jail or $1,000 in fines, or both, for an attempt to return between 100 and 10,000 non-returnable containers.

"I don’t want to put people in prison for this,” the bill’s sponsor, state representative Kenneth Kurtz, told the newspaper. “But I want to send the message that you don’t want to defraud the citizens of our state.”

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008 graduate of Furman University...
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