As our neighbors the Oldanis and us stood six feet apart from each other in their front yard several sunny afternoons ago, we couldn’t help but gripe a little bit. None of us is really like that, and we’re all managing to have a pretty good time these days despite COVID. Beer helps, as it always does, and the Oldanis enjoy their brew almost as much as Kathy and I do. But such behavior has consequences, not just the calories that would accumulate if we didn’t walk everywhere. No, it’s a space problem: the ever enlarging corner of the garage where the empties go. By Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 (COVID-19) https://www.mlive.com/public-interest/2020/03/read-michigan-gov-whitmers-entire-coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html
can and bottle returns were among those commercial activities suspended as she determined that they are not necessary to sustain or protect life. You can still buy booze in our state, thereby sustaining and protecting our lives, to be sure. But our empties have sure piled up. As of May 28, Michiganders are sitting on about 500 million returnable cans and bottles worth $50 million https://www.mlive.com/news/2020/05/michiganders-pile-up-50m-in-unredeemed-can-bottle-deposits.html.
Tom had a solution. I’ll tell you about it in a little bit. But first more about the empties.
Of the 10 states with bottle return programs, only Michigan shut down its program completely.
Come June 15, Michiganders will be able to start taking their bottles and cans back https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/more-sports/michigan-reopening-bottle-returns-starting-june-15/ar-BB14Tsrd. Of course, there will be restrictions: only 250 containers ($25) per day per person, and returns can only be to bottle return facilities housed at the front of the store or in separated areas and serviced by reverse vending machines, meaning they require little person-to-person contact. The stores selling you the beer and pop have of course been keeping all those dimes. What happens to that? It turns out that stores always collect more deposits than they redeem. The Department of the Treasury requires them to keep track. There’s even a term for that difference, the “escheat”. And guess who gets most of that? The state snags 75% to spend on “environmental programs” while they let the poor store owner keep the rest, a token of appreciation for handling all those empties. That $50 mill may seem like a big number. But there was nearly $394 million in deposits charged and $350 million collected in 2018, the latest publicly available numbers.
Here are the numbers for the Ike/Clark household. As of this morning, we’ve accumulated 704 cans and 39 bottles. 236 are 16 ouncers, and the total capacity of all the containers is 9,860 ounces. Figuring the IPAs we favor have about 200 calories per 12 ounce serving, or 164,333 1/3d since the can ban. That’s 1264 beer calories a day for each of us. Being that my jeans still fit like it was March 23, and my sweetheart looks the same, that’s a lot of walking. Putting numbers to the garage space problem, my neatly arranged stack occupies 24 square feet of floor space. But space is not flat. Reaching a height of 3 ½ feet, that’s 84 cubic feet. To compare, a conventional full size kitchen refrigerator, which is almost twice as tall as my stack, runs about 53 cubic feet.
The Oldanis have a different pastime: horses. Not riding, but caring for them. Their son, Keegan, now a Nebraska sophomore, began to volunteer at the local horse rescue shelter at the advice of his sister Kaelan, a recent UofM aerospace engineering grad. He and his parents now go at least weekly to Starry skies equine rescue and sanctuary www.starryskiesequinerescueandsanctuary.com, one of the largest equine rescues in Southern Michigan where they divert equines from the slaughter pipeline, from abuse cases, or from police seizures. Sometime during the shutdown, someone at Starry skies got the idea of converting those piled up empties into cash for the horses. So they accept donations of empties, planning to sit on them until the Governor rescinds order 2020-21. Payday is a little over a week away . Early afternoon today, Tom and Kara loaded up their truck and off it went.
Now I and especially Kathy, who has always been fond of space, which after all is the final frontier. Kathy and I saw it as way to free up 84 cubic feet are reveling in our reclamation.
I know we could have been $75 richer had we just waited 9 more days. But now we have a little more space right now and the horsies are going to get a little more help. I think we made out o.k. We’re having a beer to celebrate.