DEAR SUN SPOTS: I came upon an impropriety while returning empty soft drink bottles to a store. They state this state requires by law a deposit on said bottles but doesn’t require the store to return the deposit upon returning the same to the store.
While this nickel and dime doesn’t mean much to the individual customer, think how much it means to the store own keeping all those nickels and dimes. Say the store sells a thousand bottles a month, that’s quite a few nickels and dimes going to the pockets of the well to do.
Do you think this is right? Shouldn’t citizens get in touch with state representatives and demand something be done to correct this wrong? — No Name, Lewiston
ANSWER: Sun Spots can't be sure, but the text you quote as state law sounds like information about the fact that not all stores are required to act as redemption centers for the can and bottle beverage containers for the products they sell.
While stores must collect the nickles and dimes when you buy a beverage, they do not have to take the empty can back from you and give you your nickle.
Redeeming is a time- and space-consuming endeavor, and it's not realistic to expect every corner mom-and-pop store to collect and return all those bottles and cans. Instead, individual businesses (redemption centers) have taken on the task of redeeming.
Neither do stores get to keep all those nickels and dimes. They are merely the go-betweens for the beverage manufacturers or distributors, who are required by law to manage the redemption process.
Here's an example scenario: Say you buy a Pepsi and pay the nickle deposit. The store has already paid that nickle to the "initiator of deposit" (the manufacturer or distributor) of that Pepsi when the product was delivered to the store, so you are merely paying back that nickle.
Then, when you take your can to an authorized redemption center, you get the nickle back. The redemption center then sells your can back to the Pepsi distributor, which picks up your can, along with thousands of others, and pays the redemption center the nickle for each can plus a handling fee, which varies from 3.5 to 4 cents, depending on whether the manufacturer is part of a co-mingling agreement.
If you fail to return that can to a redemption center, it will do the store no good, because they have already paid out your nickle to Pepsi. Not returning your can puts money in the pocket of Pepsi, or the company that makes your beverage of choice. In about 20 percent of those instances, the state of Maine gets half of that money under "unclaimed property" rules, but nowhere is the store making a profit off your nickle.
Sun Spots got another question on this topic, but there isn't room for it in this column, so she will address it Friday.
DEAR SUN SPOTS, I am a single parent who works full time and still finds it challenging, like many, to make ends meet. Since I recently noticed that there are those out there who are not really interested in lugging bags of recyclables to a center or to the store (no judgement!), I would like to ask if you might be willing to toss them in a barrel for me to pick up on a regular basis. I would gladly provide a barrel and bags and clean them myself! Thank you very much! — No Name via email
ANSWER: Sun Spots thinks that No Name is referring to redeemables, as in the cans and bottles in the first question, not recyclables. She does not know of any place locally that pays cash for recycling.
Unfortunately, while Sun Spots admires No Name's initiative, only nonprofits, not individuals, can make these requests in the column. No Name could try to recruit customers by making up some fliers offering to redeem people's cans and bottles for a percentage of the money back and distributing them in prosperous neighborhoods.
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