Michigan’s Balkanizing Bottle Redemption Law Treads on Commerce Clause

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Cross-posted by Forbes.com on WLF’s Contributor Page

For those who, like me, spent much of the 1990s watching Thursday night’s “must see TV,” much of what happens in our lives can be related to an episode of “Seinfeld.”  Sometimes, the same can even be said about legal policy disputes. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit will soon hear oral arguments on a case that evokes memories of the 1996 two-part Seinfeld episode “The Bottle Deposit.”

In that episode, Newman hatches a scheme along with Kramer to collect bottles and cans and drive them in a truck to Michigan, which offered 10 cents for each returned container, compared to New York’s 5 cents. In states such as Michigan and New York, consumers pay 5 or 10 cents more than retail price for each container, but can get that money back by returning the bottles. In Michigan, the amount of bottle fees which remain unredeemed by consumers at the end of the year “escheats” to the state (i.e. they seize it as “unclaimed” property). The state keeps 75% and gives 25% to beverage retailers.  Continue reading “Michigan’s Balkanizing Bottle Redemption Law Treads on Commerce Clause”