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Stores Break State Laws By Refusing To Accept Bottle Returns

By David Wade, WBZ-TV
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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.

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