Stores Break State Laws By Refusing To Accept Bottle Returns

By David Wade, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a mini crime wave of sorts: stores breaking the state’s bottle law. Clare from Hopkinton told us about it when she went to our curiosity web page to ask: “Why is Cumberland Farms allowed to sell soda, but refuses to accept bottle returns? Is what they’re doing legal?” The answer is no, according to the state Dept. of Environmental Protection.

We had our own trouble trying to collect deposits at a lot of stores. We brought bottles with deposits to four Cumberland Farms stores, only one took them. In Wilmington, they turned us down. Same thing in Somerville, ditto in Brighton. No returns, no nickels.

“They should be taking those containers back,” says Greg Cooper from the Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP). He says the state’s bottle law is crystal clear. “Retailers are obligated to take back deposit containers of the same size, type and brand that they sell, and refund the full nickel deposit,” says Cooper. We checked, all the bottles we tried to return, and they were the same size, type and brand for sale at Cumberland farms.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports

So you might say, it’s just three places, no big deal. But then we started wondering about other stores that sell soda, but aren’t places many of us usually think of to make returns. Like CVS. We went to three of those, not one would give us our deposits. Same thing at three Rite Aid stores. At a Seven-11 the answer was also ‘no.’ And at Walgreens, two out of three wouldn’t take the bottles.

None of the companies would talk to us on-camera, but they all said the same thing, that it’s their policy to accept the returns and give back the deposits. After all, that’s the law. A

Cumberland Farms representative says: “The company is investigating.”

From CVS: “We will reinforce our policy…to ensure our stores are complying with this law.”

And from Walgreens: “These items are rarely returned to our stores, therefore it’s possible that some cashiers were not aware of the policy.”

However, that’s not quite good enough for the state. “With the ones we received from Channel 4, we will contact the retailer and inform them of their obligation under the law,” says Greg Cooper from DEP.

The state sent each store a letter, letting them know they need to shape up.

Perhaps you’re wondering about all those nickels the stores collect and don’t give back? Well, the state says no one is profiting. We won’t bore you with the complicated formula, but the way the system is set up, the money works its’ way to where it’s supposed to go.

More from David Wade
  • emom

    I have known about this for over 6 years. When I had asked some of the stores , WHY they sell the products, BUT will not take the deposits back,, The ansewer was, THEY HAVE NO ROOM IN THEIR LITTLE BACK ROOMS FOR ANY DESPOSITS,,,, AND MOST WILL NOT PICK THEM UP BECAUSE THEY ARE A SMALL STORE,,, Even though the law states if you sell deposit bottles you are to take them back more and more do not take them back….. One big culprit of this is ………… RESTURANTS..many sell bottles with deposit, and deliver them with take out BUT will not take these bottles back. And I have some that are not sold in stores at all,, and they have a 10 cent deposit… simpson springs,,,, so I have saved them and some day I will venture out there to the company and manybe purchase more… But thee are other brands resturants have that some or many stores do not carry,,, fanta, shasta, try finding these brands in a store,,, if there are there are not many. and before you say it , , no the super market machines do not recognizes them so they will not take them neither do redemption places,,,,,

  • bcnu

    Try this at one of the Hudson newsstands at Logan Airport. They absolutely refused to take back a Coke bottle I had just purchased, emptied and rinsed and asked for my deposit back. I reported this several years ago to a couple of TV investigative journalists, who were apparently not interested in illuminating these violators.

    • Brian

      Best point made. Why was that not a story then ?
      at least you cleaned the bottle .
      My ONLY sticking point with this program bringing in filthy germ ridden returns in grocery stores make my stomach turn and i think daft.
      but some may clean returns that’s good but still a foolish game with health when people don’t clean them .

      If their is one last point in seeing a store owners point some stores don’t have room for returns and i wouldn’t expect them to take in returns that’s a different business. they are in the business to make money .. from my understanding redemption centers are having issues with pay or raises and wonder who involved with that issue …any guesses.. and even resorting to charge customers at a redemption center four cents a return and i don’t know if this is anywhere else, and that’s been a while now ..maybe reporters can find a story at Framinghams bottle bills……naw not interesting.

  • John C.

    Lets Stand UP for FREEDOM,, Say NO to the BILDERBERG GROUP. 7/26/11

  • emom

    I have heard of a few redemtion places only paying 3 or 4 cents on a return…. when questioned about it they state that they only get a nickel on each bottle ,, so if they gave us the nickel, then they would not gain anythning… THATS A HUGE RACKET AND SO UNFAIR,, I pay that nickel i want that nickel back…. yEAH BZ PLEASE LOOK INTO THAT AS WELL,,, its bad enough not enough places take these things, BUT redemption places may only pay less than the nickel… As I stated before, if it is a larger deposit like 10 cents they will not take them and I can only take them back to the company which is in easton,ma. a bit of a hike. So with the bottle bill on the books again, and them wanting to add ALL bottles now…. who is going to take them supermarkets will start to take only what they sell, department stores, variety, gas stations, dounut shops, pharmacy, dollar stores, gyms, anywhere there is a vending machine, like work, some beachs, anyone of these that sells soda will not have the space to take all those bottles back,, Therfore MORE redemption stations NEEDS to be made,,, I have seen so many close leaving folks to either throw the deposits away, or hang onto them to turn in as larger loads, BUT WE NEED THAT NIKCKEL BACK< not less than a nickel……..

    • Roger

      Stores receive 2.25 cents handing by law from beverage wholesalers for handing for a total of 7.25 cents per container.

  • eddwal50

    love the comment from the dep guy that nthe unclaimed deposit makes it back to where it belongs IE: the state gets the unclaimed nickel deposit

  • Redeemer

    Im into the Bottle Return task nowadays. I mean when I have a cookout in the summer time, we have burgers, chicken, and 24-48 cans of sodas. So instead of throwing away the empty bottles/cans I decided to take them to receive my refund, which I am entitled to. I have three supermarkets with electronic bottle return machines in my area. Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, and Roach Brothers. What I have come to learn is that those three stores will pretty much take any brand name soda as in Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Canada Dry, etc. The thing is though, if I have a generic brand, such as Stop & Shop brand generic soda, it will not be accepted the their competitors. I can go to the cashier afterwards and tell them that these extra cans was not accepted, as long as it is a brand that they sell, they will refund the nickel.

  • Mark

    Stop & Shop won’t take generic brands has been this way since this started. Some liquor stores won’t either. Typical state law that is never enforced.

  • Mat Johanson

    A quickie mart across from CVS in Millbury MA. hasnt taken returns in over 10 years! They sell alcohol, we purchase it there, went to return it and we got yelled at and told they dont have room for returns and they stink. told them it was the law and they had to return them…. basically got the look and then asked .. are you a cop… we said no… then how do you know the law and we were asked to leave and not come back! You should go down there and try to return some bottles would love to see these guys go OFF on your and the camera’s!

  • Bob Hartman

    With Massachusetts Bottle Bill why isn’t it a 100% to include “ALL” beverages.
    I am tired of seeing plastic, water bottles, fruit juice, iced tea, and liquor containers strewn everywhere. Massachusetts has been draggging it’s feet for years to do the right thing. It seems like every law, including this one, is done half-ass.

  • SPT

    Instead of “why isn’t it a 100% to include “ALL” beverages” how about get rid of the bottle bill completely and leave us and the retailers alone. There is not need for it – tons of recyling now a days in every town. Oh, I forgot, its a big racket/hidden tax for the state (and you thought they didn’t already have a tax on soft drinks.)

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