2004-12-11 / News

City Begins Crackdown on Vendors, Restaurants With Recyclable Cans

By Ryan Schlehuber

Vendors who sell beverages in returnable cans and bottles are going to find it difficult to operate on Mackinac Island this coming year, if they do not provide a place to return those cans for deposit.

Mackinac Island City Council has begun its enforcement of state and federal law through its business license application process, ordering Fred Dykstra of Upper Michigan Snack Foods in St. Ignace to apply for a business license and to have a plan in place that includes providing a place where consumers can return for refund the containers they purchased from the company’s vending machines. Council is forcing vendors, restaurants, and bars to comply with state law requiring distributors of these beverages to establish a deposit facility within 100 yards of the vending machine or establishment where the containers are purchased.

Business owners like Franc Doud of Doud Mercantile are burdened by a large number of returns because, he says, many of the Island’s restaurants and bars will sell beer and soda to go, but will not accept the empty containers back.

Until now, vending machine operators have been allowed to distribute beverages in recyclable containers without having to provide a facility for consumers to return those containers and get their deposit back.

The state’s Beverage Containers Act was passed in 1976 and requires a 10¢ deposit on beer or soda cans and bottles. Mr. Doud said his store has been taking those containers back for vending operators since then. The store ships an average of 90 large bags of beer and soft drink containers back to the mainland each day during the summer. He contends he has to buy the bags and pay the freight, both for the dray and the boat, and is saddled with the repair of his two recycling machines, which are overused because there is nowhere else for consumers to return their bottles and cans.

Since a special hearing last June on the matter, city officials have been focusing on enforcing deposit provisions through its business license application process.

“Our business license requires vendors to comply with state and federal law and they’re not,” said city attorney Tom Evashevski at a city council meeting Monday, November 22. “Franc’s been asking for years about enforcement. We will have to look at that next year when business license applications come in.”

The local police have authority to regulate businesses with a liquor license that do not comply with the 1976 act, but, said Police Chief William Lenaghan, businesses like Upper Michigan Snack Foods are not in his jurisdiction. The City’s strategy then is to reinforce the issue through its business license applications.

Mayor Margaret Doud said the city will draft a letter informing vendors and restaurants about the issue, reminding them they may not get a business license if they do not take back the deposited beverage containers they sell.

“I’m sure many vending machines in St. Ignace don’t comply to the law as well, but there it’s not a big deal,” said Mr. Evashevski, noting that many stores do take back bottles and cans and refund deposits. “On the Island, though, it is a big deal.”

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