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Yet another ethical dilemma

I've written at length about the differences between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. One way I haven't mentioned is that Massachusetts has a Return Law, mandating a five-cent deposit on canned and bottled beverages, and New Hampshire doesn't.

A while, a supermarket here in Manchester, NHhad a huge deal on Coke -- $2.00 a case. I stocked up like a madman, and I'm almost done with them.

But it wasn't until I started actually drinking the sodas that I noticed that a truck must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Every single one of those cans had a Massachusetts deposit marking on it.

Now, I occasionally buy sodas in Massachusetts, so I occasionally get them with deposits. I usually toss them in with the New Hampshire ones, and every couple of months haul them down to the recycling center or give them to the homeless guy around the neighborhood.

This time, however, I find I have one and a half 30-gallon trash bags full of cans worth a nickel apiece if I take them down to Massachusetts. I normally don't like going into Massachusetts on my own time, but for a few bucks it'd be worth it.

The only catch is, I know that no deposit was initially paid on the vast majority of them. Maybe on a dozen or so, max, but nowhere near all of them.

So I'm going to toss it out to you, the readers. Should I redeem them? Should I just toss them in with the New Hampshire cans, which are worth around 30 cents a pound (meaning that I maybe get five bucks every three months)? Should I give them to someone else to redeem in Massachusetts?

Just to keep things in perspective, I would estimate we're talking five to ten dollars total here -- and most likely a hell of a lot closer to five.

Update/clarification: while I avoid going into Massachusetts "off the clock" with a passion that borders on the religious, I do regularly travel to places in New Hampshire that border with the Bay State. Therefore, redeeming the cans would not be any great trouble or expense. And I just bought ANOTHER case of cans in NH with MA deposits...

Comments (37)

I was going to suggest you ... (Below threshold)

I was going to suggest you dump them in with your regular recycling batch.

That is, until dumbass made his comment above.

Now I am convinced you should drive them to Mass, and collect the deposit with a vengeance.

Consider it money out of the pockets of his kind.

Editor's note: jmaster refers to a rather vulgar comment made by a moron that has been deleted and who has now been blackballed.

I live in Michigan, where y... (Below threshold)

I live in Michigan, where you get 10 cents a can.

Don't turn them in. Not right. Just recycle them.

It would be good if the states could coordinate on this so that eveyone offered the same deposit, and cans bought in one state could be redeemed elsewhere.

Massachusetts sucks. Screw... (Below threshold)

Massachusetts sucks. Screw them for all that you can... even if it is just $5.

I assume these programs are... (Below threshold)
Les Nessman:

I assume these programs are supposed to combat littering.
Does anyone know if these programs have been proven to be effective, or are they yet another useless gov't program?
After you've added and subtracted all costs, how much does this program cost all citizens? Anyone know?

What's it going to cost in ... (Below threshold)

What's it going to cost in gas?

Is it even worth the trip at $2.69 a gallon?

Is that blackballed, or <a ... (Below threshold)

Is that blackballed, or blueballed?

I think that you spend too ... (Below threshold)

I think that you spend too much time even thinking about such things. My time is worth more than $10 so I KNOW your time is worth more than that.

You cut coupons, don't you?

Jay Tea, do whichever is mo... (Below threshold)
John Anderson:

Jay Tea, do whichever is more convenient for you, if you get some pocket money either way. If the Big Dig doesn't sing Mass, a few stray cans returned sure won't.
Some places in Mass won't let you return more than $6 at a time - so if you've got more, get multiple receipts from the machines and cash them at different registers: this is a store decision, not a state one, trying to cut down on the number of bums - and mostly phony, as bums often cannot get to these stores.


Les, these things were passed to encourage recycling - not anti-litter, albeit that may be a side effect.

Why not the best of both op... (Below threshold)
Cardinals Nation:

Why not the best of both options? Return them in Mass and give the money to the homeless guy you mentioned.

I'm geographically impaired... (Below threshold)

I'm geographically impaired, read: to lazy to look it up. Would $5 buy your gas round trip to Taxachusetts?

If yes, and you're hungering for a roadtrip, why not?

If not, then I wouldn't bother. See lazy comment above.

Jay Tea and Whizbang ROCK!

Tarzan say, no pay deposit,... (Below threshold)

Tarzan say, no pay deposit, no get deposit back.

I whole-heartedly suggest y... (Below threshold)

I whole-heartedly suggest you burn $10.00 of gas money and an hour of your time to collect the $5.00 in can returns.

After all, Mass owes you for all those dposits you paid in the past but neglected to collect. Also, you know they're reaping a windfall from deposits paid by others, but not refunded. It is your duty to keep them honest.

It's already cost you more ... (Below threshold)

It's already cost you more than it's worth, just thinking about it. Afterwards you would continually have to rationalize your actions, even if you never mentioned it again to anyone else, the self rationalization would exact an emotional and spiritual cost on you and result in a downward spiral into liberalism. The cost would be overwhelming. For God's sake man, don't do it!

No Dennis!It's a m... (Below threshold)

No Dennis!

It's a matter of PRINCIPLE! He MUST, AT ALL COSTS, collect this refund! Do it for all of us, Jay. Godspeed.

I second Cardinals Nation -... (Below threshold)

I second Cardinals Nation -- get the deposit money and give it to some homeless guy. You'd be doing more good with that money than any state welfare agency in Taxachusetts has done in decades.

Uh, gee. That's a wise one... (Below threshold)

Uh, gee. That's a wise one there, McGehee:

Burn $10 of gas, waste an hour of your time, collect a meager $5.00 and give it to charity. What a colossal waste!

Why not eliminate the overhead costs of gas and man-hours, and just give the homeless guy $40? That's much easier, more efficient, and you get a $40.00 cash charitable donation to claim on your next 1040.

Think of the cans as pieces... (Below threshold)
Mrs. Davis:

Think of the cans as pieces of paper that you found in the parking lot. They have printed upon them, "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts promises to pay to the Bearer Upon Demand Five Cents." Would you throw them away?

The Cans I see have upwards of 10 states listed. So there's no reason one could not arbitrage cans. They are stupid laws and deserve to be abused to the full extent of the law.

How far is it the recycling... (Below threshold)

How far is it the recycling center? If it's not too far why not just bag the cans up and give them to the homeless guy? If he accepts them and starts walking to the recycle center offer him a ride, if he doesn't accept them don't give him anything else, ever. There are truly needy people out, they deserve a helping hand, there are bums out that there deserve nothing. It's usually not very hard to find out which you are dealing with. If it was me and seemed truly appreciative I might even consider driving him to Kennedyland and taking advantage of the opportunity to help give both parties exactly what they deserve.

If the deposit law works li... (Below threshold)

If the deposit law works like in most other states, this is the way it works: The manufacturer (actually bottling companies) prints the bottles with the five cent deposit marking. If the bottles are sold in the state with a deposit law, the deposit gets charged. In order to avoid taking a hit on price/distributor competition, the bottling company located in or near the state prints all the bottles with the deposit. It's then up to the route owner or bottling company if they own the route to charge the deposit to distributors or retail outlets located within the state with the deposit/return law. This allows the route owner/bottler to use the same stock to sell to businesses located near (but outside) the borders of the deposit/return law state.

The one who really comes out ahead is the bottler. Because they get to charge deposit on every bottle sold within the deposit/return law state. If bottles don't get returned, then the bottler keeps the deposit (in most states). This is supposedly to offset the costs of having to haul back the empty bottles, time lost for sorting, disposal, etc.

To the benefit of the bottler, many supermarkets have on-site shredders. This cuts down on hauling the bottles back to the bottler and the bottler having to get rid of the bottles without worrying about them being re-directed and returned a second time. The fewer bottles returned to the supermarket and bottler, the better the profit for the bottler. The company supplying the shredders pays the face value to the supermarkets, the shredding machine suppliers pocket the handling fee, the supermarket pays for the electricity to run the shredders, the supermarket comes out ahead because of the decrease in labor and storage costs for the large 2 liter bottles and any other containers that can be shredded or compacted.

For smaller retail outlets and distributors without shredders, they normally get paid about one and a half cents handling cost per bottle if the deposit is 5 cents. So the retail outlet actually gets six and a half cents per bottle after paying the consumer five cents deposit back. But the retail outlet then has to BUY empty bags from the bottler to bag up the bottles (have to use the bottler bags because they are pre-marked to 40 2-liter bottles or 240 cans per bag when tightened to the marks on the neck of the bag), the retailer also has to pay for extra labor to handle all the bottles, has to use valuable floor space somewhere on the premises to store and sort the bottles, has to handle dirty bottles (don't EVER drink from long-necks in a bar/restaurant, those are deposit bottles, and you wouldn't believe what ends up inside those bottles when they are returned), has to pay for extra extermination costs for the roaches and vermin attracted by the dirty bottles (and dried sugar/syrup), whether the roaches come from the neighborhood, the bags of the customers who drop the deposit bottles at the back of the retailer's establishment, or the boxes that the bottler delivers the refilled bottles in after the roaches/vermin move from the empty bottle boxes to the full bottle boxes.

The best way to look at it is that the bottler profits from bottles that aren't returned, they are against repealing the deposit law (in the states where the bottler keeps the deposit if the bottles aren't returned), so that shows they profit from the law, and the retail outlets regard the law with resentment because it costs them more than anyone else to implement and maintain. They would rather repeal the law, and where retailer associations exist, they generally lobby to repeal the law whenever possible.

The only retailers who might profit a bit from the law are the ones located inside the state with the deposit law but near a border state without it. Then, discounting the labor involved, they can purchase their stock outside the state without paying the deposit, but charge the deposit when they sell the product. At five cents, the labor involved really doesn't pay because of time, cost of hauling liquids, insurance risk during hauling, etc. But raise that deposit to ten cents and the border states without the deposit law will see a huge increase in sales.

I don't beleive that the st... (Below threshold)

I don't beleive that the state pays the refund. The refund comes out of the store owners pocket. Why screw the store owner?

I say strap the cans to you... (Below threshold)

I say strap the cans to your bike for a good exercise ride, return the cans for the $5-$10. Then buy yourself a nice cold one to enjoy your good deed.

Then bring that can back to NH....there's only so much you can stand to do in Mass....

Markie, go play in traffic.... (Below threshold)

Markie, go play in traffic.

I would like to thank shaza... (Below threshold)

I would like to thank shazam for the very informative post, which cleared up some misconceptions I had.

Jay, I suggest you forget the homeless guy, and instead pay shazam the $40 he/she earned.

Ya know, I bet even McGehee's time is worth more than $20.00 per hour--even if he's just masturbating to reruns of Married With Children this weekend. With the amount of time everyone spent posting about this "ethical dilemma," we could have pooled our resources and flown the homeless guy to Spago for a decent meal and a better grade of wine that might spare his liver to fail another day.

Please do let us know what you decide, Jay.

Mark, it's a Sunday and I a... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Mark, it's a Sunday and I already wrote two "heavy" pieces for the day. If this is too frivolous, feel free to sit it out.


Ah Jay, I'm just trying to ... (Below threshold)

Ah Jay, I'm just trying to stir things up. Smile.

Wasn't this a Seinfeld epis... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

Wasn't this a Seinfeld episode?

And who would be Kramer to ... (Below threshold)
Sue Dohnim:

And who would be Kramer to your Newman?

Hah!Sue's right. ... (Below threshold)


Sue's right. Didn't they fill the mail truck?

Too funny.

The Horror!!!... (Below threshold)

The Horror!!!

Well, I simply can't believ... (Below threshold)

Well, I simply can't believe that no one has suggested the obvious: stop drinking so much Coke! That stuff is death in a can.

You're probably in denial like all the other junkies.

Everyone knows that coke leads to coffee, coffee leads to cigarettes, and cigarettes lead to hard drugs.

Sounds to me like you've got a pretty serious habit if it's taking you across state lines in a desperate attempt to finance the coke monkey.

I say you get some tin snip... (Below threshold)

I say you get some tin snips, cut out all the 10c deposit stamps so nobody can return them, then dump them along the Mass highways.

McGroarty,Damn you... (Below threshold)


Damn you... your brilliant suggestion made me spew a mouthful of Florida-bought refund-less Coke (with lime!) all over my monitor!

Do it!Use the proc... (Below threshold)

Do it!

Use the proceeds to eat at Jimbo's in Boston (it's right next door to the ritzy "Jimmy's" restaraunt). That way you'll be giving back to the community :)

Get the deposit. Theres at ... (Below threshold)
Josh Davenport:

Get the deposit. Theres at least 5% or cans that are not returned.

Certainly, you'll put it to more productive use than the state.

Nah, I'm with McGroarty! W... (Below threshold)

Nah, I'm with McGroarty! Wish I thought of it myself.

Drive to Mass. and donate t... (Below threshold)

Drive to Mass. and donate the deposit to a homeless shelter. That'll get you to sleep tonight...and help an unfortunate soul in need.

I think you should cash the... (Below threshold)
OC Chuck:

I think you should cash them in. There is no stipulation that a deposit be paid, just that the 5 cents for return will be paid in Mass. It was stated earlier that the incentive was to encourage recycling, and the 5 cent deposit was used for that (so you could get your money back). The fact that they were sold in New Hamster is the responsibility of the distributor. If a large-scale inequity is found in the system, the rules can be changed to correct it.

But if it makes you feel bad, turn them in to a NH store.






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