A Flood of Bottle Returns is a Big Deal

For the owner of a local supermarket, more is not always a good thing.

After recently adding three machines at Big Deal Supermarket to allow his customers to return empty cans and bottles, owner Miguel Garcia says the amount of returns brought in are becoming too much to handle.

Garcia claims thousands of cans are being returned on a daily basis, with some people returning over $100 worth of cans and bottles at a time. Garcia said he is the only local store accepting returns in the aea.

According to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, any beverage dealer must refund the deposit of any product they sell from their premises, regardless of where the product was originally purchased. For example, if a store sells Pepsi, they must refund the deposit on a Pepsi can or bottle even if it was not purchased there.

Garcia said that is not the case with other stores in the Morris Park community, and he is the only store taking back cans and bottles from all over.

“It’s not right that the supermarket has to deal with all of these returns every single day,” Garcia said. “These machines are a must for a supermarket, but we have people coming here with over $100 worth of cans and bottles and they take two to three hours just to put them into the machines.”

DEC law states that Garcia is allowed to place a limit on the number of cans and bottles returned by one person per day. About two weeks ago, Garcia posted signs on the machines in English, Spanish and Albanian, that state there is a return limit of 240 cans and bottles, or $12 worth, per customer, per day.

Not from from the machines, which are on Colden Avenue, is the Community Board 11 office. District manager Jeremy Warneke says on a daily basis, you can look out the office window and watch people stand there for hours returning cans and bottles.

“These people are abusing the system and it’s terrible,” Warneke said. “If you want to go over there you have to wait for hours on a line while people stand there with carts filled with cans and bottles. It’s not fair to Miguel and we need our other merchants to comply with the law. If stores aren’t accepting cans or bottles that they sell, we need to know.”

For Garcia, maintaining the machines is a large expense in itself. Due to the high volume of cans and bottles being returned, Garcia was forced to hire another employee whose job is to empty the machines and keep them clean.

“These machines have to be properly cleaned and maintained and it’s costing a lot of money,” Garcia said. “All I would like is for the other stores in the neighborhood is to comply with the law, because it’s getting to be too much at the supermarket.”

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