Container deposit legislation in the United States

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Deposit notice on a bottle sold in continental U.S. indicating the container's deposit value in various states; "CA CRV" means California Redemption Value

There are ten U.S. states with container deposit legislation, popularly called "bottle bills" after the Oregon Bottle Bill, the first such legislation passed.[1]

Container deposit legislation mandates a refundable deposit on certain types of recyclable beverage containers. Studies show that the recycling rate for beverage containers is vastly increased with a bottle bill. The United States' overall beverage container recycling rate is approximately 33%, while states with container deposit laws have a 70% average rate of beverage container recycling. Michigan's recycling rate of 97% from 1990 to 2008 was the highest in the nation, as is its ten-cent deposit.[2] Studies also show that beverage container legislation has reduced total roadside litter by between 30% and 64% in the states with bottle bills.[3]

Proponents of container deposit legislation have pointed to the small financial obligations of the states, as financing these programs are the responsibility of the beverage industry and consumers.[2] Producers are responsible for disposing of returned products, while consumers are responsible for collecting their refunds.

In Connecticut, Maine, Michigan, and Massachusetts the courts have ruled that unclaimed deposits are deemed abandoned by the public and are therefore property of the state. These states use this money to fund other environmental programs.[citation needed] In California and Hawaii uncollected deposits are used to cover the administrative costs of the deposit program.[2][4] In Iowa and Oregon the beverage distribution industry keeps the unredeemed deposits.[5][6] Iowa and Oregon's systems are similar and it was found to be highly profitable for beverage distributors in Iowa.[6] Between March and June 2020, most states with container deposit legislation, except for California and Hawaii, temporarily suspended bottle bill requirements as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.[7]

States with container deposits[edit]

Container-deposit legislation in North America.
  Container deposits on most bottles and cans
  Container deposits only on beer/alcoholic beverage containers
  Container deposits discontinued
  No container deposits
Canned wine with Iowa 5¢ and Maine 15¢ insignia
  • California (5¢; for bottles 24 U.S. fl oz (710 mL) or greater, 10¢), California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (AB 2020) implemented in 1987, last revision made October 2010.[8] Listed on containers as "California Redemption Value", or "CRV", or "CA Cash Refund" or similar notations. Beverages covered under the act are beer and malt beverages, distilled spirit coolers and wine coolers, and all non-alcoholic beverages except milk, 100 percent vegetable juice in containers larger than 16 ounces, and 100 percent fruit juice in containers 46 ounces or larger. Other notable beverage excluded from CRV are wine, distilled spirits, medical food and baby formula. Container types are aluminum, glass, plastic resins 1–7, bi-metals (exempts refillables).[9] The recycling rate for beverage containers of all materials in 2011 was 82%.[10] California imposes sales tax on the CRV if the beverage is taxable. The sales tax is not refunded to consumers upon redeeming the empty containers to a recycling center. Some recycling centers have attracted drug activity and crimes. In one example in Haight-Ashbury, a recycling center was ordered shut by the city in 2012 due to drug activity crime.[11]
  • Connecticut (5¢), Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Law 1980; not charged on milk (deposit on water bottles went into effect October 1, 2009).[12] Applies to beer, carbonated soft drinks (including mineral water and soda waters) and non-carbonated beverages; "non-carbonated beverages" means water, including flavored water, nutritionally enhanced water and any beverage that is identified through the use of letters, words or symbols on such beverage's product label as a type of water, but excluding juice and mineral water. Beverage container types include bottles, jars, or cartons made from glass, metal, or plastic.[13]
  • Hawaii (5¢), Solid Waste Management Deposit Beverage Container Law (Act 176). Enacted in June 2002. In addition, Hawaii charges a nonrefundable 1¢ fee per container to fund the program. This fee increases to 1.5¢ if the redemption rate reaches 70%.[14] Containers of aluminum, bi-metal, glass, plastic (PETE and HDPE) up to 68 U.S. fl oz (2.01 L). All non-alcoholic beverage (excluding dairy), beer, malt, mixed spirits, and wine.[15]
  • Iowa (5¢ for containers that held carbonated beverages), Beverage Container Deposit Law 1978. Beverages of beer, wine coolers, wine, liquor, soda pop, mineral water. Bottles, cans, jars, or cartons made of glass, plastic, or metal.[16] Iowa code 455C requires that retailers take back containers of what they sell and it is a misdemeanor to fail to comply,[17] but The Des Moines Register reports that officials say enforcement is almost non-existent.[18]
  • Maine (5¢ on fruit juice, soda, beer and bottled water; 15¢ for most liquor and wine cans/bottles), Maine Returnable Beverage Container Law 1978. All potable liquids, except dairy and unprocessed cider. All glass, metal, or plastic containers 4 L (135 U.S. fl oz) or smaller, excluding blueberry juice and apple cider produced in Maine.[19] Redemption centers are paid a processing fee of 3-4¢ per container by the distributor.[20] There are some redemption centers that pay the clients in excess of deposit value, sharing part of the fee they receive from the distributor to encourage them to conduct business at the store.[21]
  • Massachusetts Bottle Bill (5¢ for containers that held carbonated beverages), Beverage Container Recovery Law enacted in 1982. Beverages include beer, malt, soda, mineral water in jars, cartons, bottles, or cans made of glass, metal, plastic, or a combination.[22] The redemption rate of covered containers is 72.3%,[23] though due to an increase in sales of non-carbonated beverages, over 30% of beverage containers sold are not covered and are recycled at a much lower rate.[24]
  • Michigan (10¢ non-refillable, 10¢ refillable), Michigan Beverage Container Act of 1976. For beverages of beer, pop, carbonated and mineral water, wine coolers, canned cocktails. In containers made of metal, glass, paper, or plastic under 1 U.S. gal (3.79 L).[25]
  • New York (5¢), New York State Returnable Container Law 1982. For containers under one gallon that held carbonated beverages or water (the law was amended to include water containers on October 31, 2009).[26] Beverages include beer, malt beverages, soda, juice spritzers containing added water or sugar, wine product,[27] and bottled water without added sugar. Hard cider and wine are exempt from the deposit, whether or not they are carbonated. Container types are metal, glass, paper, plastic or a combination under 1 U.S. gal (3.79 L).
  • Oregon (10¢), the Oregon Bottle Bill passed in 1971. Covered beverages carry a mandatory refund value, which means a redemption value must be paid upon presentation of containers, however, retailers are not required to charge the deposit.[28]
Beverages covered include beer, malt, soda, bottled water, juice, coffee, kombucha, coconut water, ready-to-use mixers, nutritional supplements, smoothies, protein shakes, non-alcoholic wine, drinking vinegar, marijuana beverages, sports drinks, energy drinks and most other beverages. The only exceptions are for wine, liquor, dairy or plant-based milk, meal replacement beverages, and infant formula.[29] Included are bottles, cans, or jars made of glass, metal, or plastic. Redemption rate has been as high as 94%, but dropped to 83% by 2005[30] and to 64.5% in 2015, the decline ultimately triggering a scheduled increase in the redemption value to 10¢ effective April 2017.[31]
  • Vermont (5¢; for most liquor bottles, 15¢), Beverage Container Law 1973. Includes beer, malt, soda, mixed wine drinks, liquor. Containers included are bottles, cans, jars, or cartons composed of glass, metal, paper, plastic, or a combination.[32]

Repealed legislation[edit]

  • Delaware (5¢), Beverage Container Regulation 1982 [Repealed in 2009]. Included beer, malt, ale, soft drinks, mineral water, soda water, and covered all containers under 2 U.S. qt (1.89 L) (with the exception of aluminum).[33] Container deposit legislation was repealed by Senate Bill 234. As of December 1, 2010, consumers no longer paid a deposit on containers; no refunds were paid after February 1, 2011.[34] Delaware had a non-refundable 4¢ tax per beverage container sold, which retailers remitted to the state monthly. This fee expired as of December 1, 2014.[35]

Proposed legislation[edit]

There have regularly been campaigns in the early 21st century to introduce container-deposit laws in various U.S. states and territories, or to improve or expand existing legislation, including but not limited to the following initiatives:[36]

  • Washington State had Washington Beverage Container Deposit on the November 6, 1979, ballot as Initiative 61.[37] Had it passed it would have established a minimum 5¢ deposit. However, measure was defeated with 57.63% voters rejecting the proposition.[38]
  • Texas unsuccessfully attempted to introduce a bottle bill in 2011. The bill set a redemption goal of 75%, with a deposit rate of 10¢ for containers 24 U.S. fl oz (710 mL) or less, and 15¢ for larger containers. Beverages covered would have been: beer, malt, carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, wine, coffee, tea, juices, flavored waters, and non-carbonated waters (dairy products excluded). Containers made of glass, plastic or aluminum-containing a beverage of 4 L (1.1 U.S. gal) or less would have been covered.[39] The Texas bottle bill did not gather enough votes.[40]
  • The Massachusetts legislature failed over several sessions to expand its bottle law to cover bottled water and sports drinks in line with its New England neighbors. Massachusetts environmental activists attempted a ballot petition in November 2014. The bill failed 27% to 73%.[41] The beverage industry funded over 80% of a more than $9 million campaign, which outspent environmental groups by a margin of more than 6 to 1.[42]

Criminal offenses related to container deposits[edit]

Numerous instances of criminal offenses have occurred motivated by the cash refund value of empty containers, such as theft of cases of water from a retail store, burglary into a concession stand, welfare fraud, and theft of bagged empties from a private residence. In Salem, Oregon, Douglas McKay High School athletic concession stand was burgled where approximately ten 24 pack cases of beverages were emptied inside the building and empty containers stolen. The vice president of the club suggested the thieves committed the crime of returning empties for cash at the BottleDrop redemption facility nearby.[43] A Medford, Oregon woman was charged with theft of $40 worth of bottled water from Albertsons. A video of the same woman dumping the empty bottles at the BottleDrop facility operated by the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative has circulated on the Internet.[44] A parolee from Wayne County, New York was charged with illegal exchange/sale of items purchased on food stamps following a purchase of 1,000 bottles of bottled water and dumping them out to cash out on the container deposit.[45] A machete-wielding male subject was observed taking a bag of empty cans set aside on the porch in front of the house and was confronted by a neighbor in Medford, Oregon.[46]

In July 2020, a man in Aloha, Oregon attacked another man that was scavenging refundable containers in a residential neighborhood to steal his cans.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wasting and Recycling Trends: Conclusions from CRI's 2008 Beverage Market Data Analysis, Page 4
  2. ^ a b c Gitlitz, Jenny & Franklin, Pat (2006). "The 10 Cent Incentive to Recycle". Container Recycling Institute.
  3. ^ "Bottle Bills Prevent Litter". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  4. ^ State of Connecticut, Department of Environmental Protection Bottle Bill FAQ
  5. ^ "Consumer convenience is essential to saving Iowa's bottle bill". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  6. ^ a b Jaquiss, Nigel. "Corporate Lobbyists Turned Oregon's Iconic Bottle Bill into a Sweet Payday for Their Clients". Willamette Week. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  7. ^ "At least 8 states suspend bottle bill requirements during coronavirus pandemic". Waste Dive. Retrieved 2020-04-01.
  8. ^ California Beverage Container Recycling & Litter Reduction Act Archived November 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ California's Beverage Container Recycling & Litter Reduction Program FACT SHEET Archived November 12, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Notice: Biannual Report of Beverage Container Sales, Returns, Redemption, and Recycling Rates". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  11. ^ "How Homeless People Make their Livings Redeeming Recyclables | Independent Lens | Blog | PBS". Independent Lens. Retrieved 2021-03-31.
  12. ^ " - The Connecticut Campaign". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  13. ^ " - The CT bottle bill". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  14. ^ "House Bill". Retrieved 2012-06-12.
  15. ^ Hawaii Administrative Rules, Title 11, Department of Health, Chapter 282, Deposit Beverage Container Recycling Archived 2011-07-11 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ Iowa Department of Natural Resources Waste Management: The Deposit Law Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ Rood, Lee (December 4, 2020). "Kick the can: Almost 42 years later, can Iowa's bottle redemption law be enforced?". Des Moines Register. Retrieved 2021-03-29.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Photos: 42 years later, Iowa's bottle redemption law crumbles under COVID". Dec 3, 2020. Retrieved 2021-03-30.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Table of Contents for Chapter 28: MANUFACTURERS, DISTRIBUTORS AND DEALERS OF BEVERAGE CONTAINERS". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  20. ^ "Maine's Beverage Container Redemption Program (PDF)". May 2018. Archived from the original on 2019-02-23. Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  21. ^ Flaherty, Nora. "Why Some Redemption Centers Give 6 Cents a Bottle When Deposit is Only 5". Retrieved 2020-10-08.
  22. ^ DEP. "Site Help - MassDEP". Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  23. ^ " - The Massachusetts Deposit Law". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  24. ^ "Municipal Benefits of an Expanded Bottle Bill". Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Archived from the original on 2013-05-02.
  25. ^ "Michigan Legislature". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  26. ^ "New York's Bottle Bill". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  27. ^ Defined as a beverage containing wine with added juice, flavoring, water, citric acid, sugar and carbon dioxide, not containing more than six percent alcohol by volume (typically referred to as "wine coolers"). Archived 2013-07-31 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Bottle Bill 101 information session at House Committee On Energy and Environment May 2, 2019 1:00 PM - Jules Bailey, Chief Stewardship Officer, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative. 1 hrs 7 min at:
  29. ^ "2018 Expansion FAQs" (PDF). Oregon Liquor Control Commission. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  30. ^ "The Expanded Bottle Bill 2007: Legislation Added Water Bottles, Created Task Force" (PDF). State of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 10, 2008.
  31. ^ Pursinger, Geoff (July 29, 2016) [published online July 22]. "Oregon bottle redemption rate to double". Hillsboro Tribune. pp. A1, A4. Retrieved 2016-08-02.
  32. ^ "Vermont Statutes Online". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  33. ^ " - The Delaware Deposit Law". Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  35. ^ "Retail Beverage Container License and Recycling Fee". State of Delaware. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  36. ^ "Proposed Laws". Bottle Bill. Bottle Bill. Retrieved 11 August 2021.
  37. ^ "General Election 1979 Voter's Pamphlet" (PDF). Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  38. ^ "November 1979 General Election Search Results". Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  39. ^ Texas Bottle Bill 2011 Archived May 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  40. ^ "Bill: SB 635 - 2nd Reading Amendment 6". Texas Legislature Online. May 25, 2011.
  41. ^ "Ballot questions, 2 - Expand bottle bill, Mass". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  42. ^ Abel, David (November 4, 2014). "Bid to expand Mass. bottle law soundly rejected". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 3 December 2014.
  43. ^ Barreda, Virginia. "Salem's McKay High School concession stand burglarized, $1,200 in losses". Statesman Journal. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  44. ^ Jusino, Daniela (2017-04-03). "VIDEO: Woman cited after stealing water for bottle redemption". KTVL. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  45. ^ "1000 bottles of water, purchased with food stamps, dumped for 5¢ deposit refund - Times of Wayne County". 2015-04-26. Archived from the original on 2015-04-26. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  46. ^ Tribune, Buffy Pollock for the Mail (2020-02-25). "Medford man stepped in when he saw somebody stealing from his neighbor's po". Mail Tribune. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  47. ^ Egener, Max (July 30, 2020). "Aloha man arrested for alleged attack and robbery of another man". BeavertonValley Times. Archived from the original on 2020-08-13. Retrieved 2020-08-12.

External links[edit]