Massachusetts can and bottle returns to open back up under coronavirus

All those beer bottles you’ve had piling up in coronavirus quarantine can now get you a couple of bucks again, as the state begins to open back up bottle collection.

“Reverse vending machines,” the contraptions into which you can input the bottles and cans at stores, will have to be turned back on for public use starting June 5, which is next Friday, according to the state. Retailers who accept bottles over the counter will have to begin doing so on June 19, according to Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration.

Normally, all retailers who sell bottles and cans are required by state law to redeem many of those same types of containers for 5 cents a pop. But Attorney General Maura Healey suspended enforcement of that requirement on March 18 to limit the spread of the virus. Healey’s office said at the time that some stores had sought this change in order to reduce risk of crowded conditions and of employees catching COVID-19 from contaminated bottles.

“Customers are encouraged to check the operating status of redemption locations before bringing empty beverage containers for redemption and should follow store guidelines related to redemption services and standard safety precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing a mask and social distancing,” the state said in a news release.

Customers will be required to wear masks while inside bottle rooms, which will have limited capacity. Stores will have to designate specific times for high-risk and elderly people to come in and return bottles and cans.

Store employees will have to wear gloves and masks, and disinfect the reverse vending machines.

This comes as the state moves ahead with its reopening plans. Some businesses that had been shut down began to be allowed to open over the past couple of weeks as part of “Phase 1” of the reopening. On Friday, Baker further rolled out some guidelines for “Phase 2,” including easing of restrictions on restaurants and sports teams.

COVID-19 deaths and positive tests have continued to decline over the past few weeks after reaching peaks in Boston and its surrounding areas in mid-to-late April. The four-phase reopening plan is contingent on health data trends remaining positive.

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