West Bloomfield, MI (March 13, 2020) – Due to risks of the Coronavirus, the Midwest Independent Retailers Association (MIRA) is asking that the State of Michigan suspend all Bottle Returns at local grocery and convenience stores.
“We have always been concerned about the health risks with empty bottles returned to local food establishments, specifically our stores,” said Auday Arabo, president and CEO of MIRA. “Now with the Coronavirus, the risk of illness is that much greater and extremely concerning. We never believed these empty bottles belonged at the stores where people buy their food.”
MIRA has spent years trying to change the State of Michigan’s Bottle Bill. They have proposed separate bottle return centers where bottle returns occur outside the grocery and convenience stores to reduce the risk of health issues to their customers as well as their employees.
“Employees touch these bottles with their hands and may carry a multitude of germs on them,” said Arabo. “We now know that the Coronavirus can stay on a surface for days. This is a huge problem!”
According to research conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the virus can remain viable in the air for multiple hours and on surfaces for at least 3 days. “COVID-19 was most stable on plastic and stainless steel and viable virus could be detected up to 72 hours post application.”
The association is asking Governor Whitmer and the Department of Health and Human Services to allow all store owners to use their discretion in accepting these bottles for the near future.
Michigan State Representative Joe Bellino (R) and State Representative Frank Liberati (D) both own stores and both are MIRA members.
“With the Federal State of Emergency and the now declared Michigan State of Emergency, it imperative that we keep our customers, staff, and families as safe as we can,” said Bellino, owner of Broadway Market in Monroe, Michigan. “We know that the virus stays on metal and glass for a long period of time. So, suspending returns is an easy, safe way to help slow down the spread of the virus.”
“It is very important that if this crisis progresses even further, we protect our food supply chains,” said Liberati, owner of Liberati’s Italian Deli & Bakery in Allen Park. “People have to eat. We have to keep employees and customers protected from transmission of this virus. Protecting our food establishments should be a number one priority.
Many MIRA members are taking precautions.
“The team at Markham Enterprises Inc. and the Booze Barns are monitoring the changes coming at us at a rapid pace. Our goal is to serve the public as SAFELY as we can,” said Michael G. Mitchell Vice President, Markham Enterprises Inc., Markham Oil Company and Sunoco Distributor Council Director, MIRA Executive Board Member. “We are looking at any way we can eliminate potential problem areas and absolutely agree with MIRA’s approach and would like to thank MIRA for always looking out for Independent retailers.”
Mitchell’s company has two stores in Howell, one business in Perry, Michigan and one in Lansing. “We do not have a machine at any of our stores,” noted Mitchell, “100 percent of our returns are handled by team members.”
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