Following reports that Walgreens was overcharging for its state-mandated bottle deposit fee, reporters returned to regional locations Tuesday, April 5, and found the surcharge was no longer present. Additionally, price labels on shelves now state “plus deposit.” Kay Neufeld/Franklin Journal

Walgreens is back to charging just 5 cents for its deposit on applicable recyclable bottles in regional stores.

The Franklin Journal reported April 1 that Walgreens customers were being charged 15 cents at locations across Western Maine for bottles that should legally be charged 5 cents.

Reporters for Sun Media Group’s Western Maine weeklies returned to Walgreens stores in Farmington, Livermore Falls, Bethel and Norway on Tuesday and were charged the 5-cent fee on applicable bottles. Additionally, price labels on shelves now state “plus deposit.”

After a consumer posted on Facebook in mid-March about a 15-cent deposit charged for a recyclable bottle at Walgreens in Bethel, reporters from Sun Media Group went to stores in Farmington, Lewiston, Auburn, Livermore Falls and Norway. They purchased bottles that register under the state’s 5-cent deposit fee and each were charged 15 cents for “recycling fees.”

The bottle return program, also known as the “Bottle Bill,” incentivizes recycling by charging a 5-cent deposit fee set by the Legislature. The fee passes from manufacturer to distributor to retailer to consumer. The consumer is responsible for returning the bottle to a redemption center to receive the deposit paid as stipulated by the bottle’s label. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection currently oversees the program.

Walgreens’ corporate office responded late March 31 with the following:


“Walgreens recently became aware of this issue and is actively working to correct bottle deposit fees charged at our Maine store locations. Store teams are manually adjusting the fees until this is corrected in our system. Customers who were charged an incorrect bottle deposit fee can bring their receipt into a local Walgreens for reimbursement. We thank our customers for their continued patience and apologize for the inconvenience.”

Scott Wilson, project manager for sustainability for the Maine DEP, said Wednesday that Walgreens had rebooted its system, causing the incorrect fee. The reboot defaulted back to the old system, which had an error in it, he said.

It’s unclear what consequences Walgreens might face.

Maine law states that a violation could result in a $100 fine per day, charged each day as a “separate offense” if “the violation … continues or exists.”

It’s also unclear how the DEP is ensuring Walgreens customers who incurred the incorrect fee are adequately compensated.

Walgreens has not issued further comment on the matter.

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