By Jessica Mathews /

Livingston County residents who still have cans and bottles piling up now have more options to return them.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer suspended the collection of returnable beverage containers on March 23rd to aid in the fight against COVID-19. Under Phase 1, retailers with return facilities located at the front of a store or housed in a separate area and serviced exclusively by reverse vending machines were required to re-open. Phase 2 begins today, which means all grocery stores, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and other retailers must re-open their bottle return facilities and resume collecting bottles and cans to refund outstanding deposits. As of today, any store with reverse vending machines can accept the returns.

Michigan Department of Treasury Spokesman Ron Leix said while most places have reverse style vending machines, those that don’t can still choose to not accept returns at this time. If a store desires, he says they can do hand-to-hand returns at their discretion. Leix noted retailers are also able to limit the number of beverage containers that can be returned, establish special or limited hours for returns, periodically close faculties as needed for cleaning and supply management and implement other procedures or restrictions as necessary.

The phases were implemented for health and safety. Leix says they’ve been in talks with retail and recycling partners to find out when was a good time to start phasing things in. He said taking returns back all at once would have created a huge backlog and other logistical concerns so it was decided to go phase-by-phase. Leix tells WHMI they’ll see how Phase 2 goes and as deemed appropriate, additional phases or a final phase will be announced but they ask everyone to be patient.

Leix said many people are also donating cans and bottles to non-profits to help different causes. If individuals choose to recycle their bottles or cans instead of returning them to a retailer for the 10-cent deposit, state law outlines that 75% of the previously collected bottle deposit money is automatically deposited into the state's Cleanup and Redevelopment Trust Fund and 25% is returned to the retailers.