Monday, October 13, 2014

Container Deposit Laws

Container deposit laws, also popularly termed "Bottle Bills", were created by the beverage industry as a means of guaranteeing the return of their containers to be processed, refilled and resold. The deposit-refund system is a proven, sustainable method of capturing beverage bottles and cans for recycling and is a very simple process.

When a retailer buys beverages from a distributor, a deposit is paid for each can or bottle purchased. The consumer then pays the deposit to the retailer when they buy the beverage. When the consumer returns the empty beverage container to the retail store, a redemption center, or to a reverse vending machine, the deposit is refunded. The retailer recoups the deposit from the distributor, plus an additional handling fee generally ranging from $0.01 to $0.03 to cover costs incurred by the retailer.

The refund value of the container, usually $0.05 or $0.10 cents, provides a monetary incentive to return the container for recycling.The benefits of a container deposit law include:
  • Supply recyclable materials for a high-demand market
  • Conserve energy and natural resources
  • Create new businesses and jobs
  • Reduce waste disposal costs
  • Reduce litter
Distributors make short-term investments on the deposits that are collected from retailers to offset the initial cost to the distributors. Costs can also be offset by the sale of scrap cans and bottles. In addition to this income, distributors and bottlers realize windfall profits on beverage containers that consumers fail to return for the refund.
In 1971, Oregon passed the first bottle bill in the United States. By 1986, ten more states had enacted some form of beverage container deposit law or bottle bill. Delaware had a container deposit law but it was repealed in 2010. The ten states to currently have a container deposit laws include:
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
The presence of a bottle bill in a state generally results in much higher materials recovery rates. supports the recycling industry, which depends on a constant stream of recyclable materials. Increased recovery leads to increased recycling, thus reducing resource depletion by using recycled materials in manufacturing. The top five states who had seen a rise in recycling rates after enacting this type of law, going from a mere 11 to 14 percent to as much as 85 to 95 percent, are shown on the graph below:

The benefits of having a container deposit law far outweigh the alternative, which proves to have lower recovery rates for recycling, higher littler rates, and higher disposals costs. To see how recycling rates benefit everyone visit

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