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Container deposit legislation


Container deposit legislation are laws passed by city, state, provincial, or national governments that require that a deposit on carbonated, water or alcoholic beverage containers be collected when the beverage is sold. When the container is returned to an authorized redemption center, or the original seller in some states, the deposit is partially or completely refunded to the consumer.

Deposits that are not redeemed are often used by the governmental entity involved to fund environmental programs; sometimes they are used to cover the costs of processing returned containers.


United States

In the United States, these laws are also popularly called bottle bills after the Oregon Bottle Bill, the first container deposit legislation passed in the U.S.

Governments may pass container deposit legislation for several reasons:

  • to encourage recycling and complement existing curbside recycling programs;
  • to specifically reduce beverage container litter along highways, in lakes and rivers, and on other public or private properties (where beverage container litter occurs, a nominal deposit provides an economic incentive to clean it up; this is in fact a significant source of income to some homeless individuals and non-profit civic organizations);
  • to extend the usable lifetime of taxpayer-supported community or regional landfills, and;
  • to protect children by effectively reducing the incidence of glass lacerations in childhood.

Efforts to pass container deposit legislation in the 39 states that do not have them are often politically contentious. The U.S. beverage container industry --- including both the bottlers of water, soda, beer, and the corporate owners of grocery stores, and convenience stores --- often spends large amounts of money in the United States lobbying against the introduction of both new and amended beverage container deposit legislation.

Studies show that beverage container legislation has reduced total roadside litter by between 30% and 64% in the states with bottle bills.[1]

Studies also show that the recycling rate for beverage containers is vastly increased with a bottle bill. The US beverage container recycling rate was 39.4% in 2001. States with bottle bills recycle approximately 78% while states lacking bottle bill legislation only recycle approximately 23%.[2]

In some states, such as California, the unredeemed bottle deposit money is put into a fund which provides grants for curbside recycling programs, clean up, and other related causes.[3]

US States with Container Deposits

According to 2004 U.S. Census Bureau statistics, approximately 30% of the U.S. population currently reside in states or territories with existing container deposit laws:

  • California (5 cents; 10 cents for bottles 24 fl oz or greater), implemented in 1987 and increased 25% in 2007; listed on containers as "Cash Return Value" or "CRV"
  • Connecticut (5 cents), 1980
  • Delaware (5 cents), 1982
  • Hawaii (5 cents), 2005
  • Iowa (5 cents for containers that held carbonated beverages), 1979 (also applies to wine bottles)
  • Maine (5 cents, also applied to fruit juice and bottled water; 15 cents for some wine bottles), 1978
  • Massachusetts (5 cents), 1983
  • Michigan (10 cents), 1978 (beer bottles were 5 cents until the 1980s)
  • New York (5 cents), 1982
  • Oregon (5 cents), 1972
  • Vermont (5 cents; 15 cents for most liquor bottles as of 1990), 1973

Public safety

A study published within the October 1986 edition of the American Journal of Public Health demonstrated the effectiveness of Massachusetts bottle bill legislation toward reducing the incidence of glass lacerations among urban children. This research study followed Bay State efforts to enact bottle bill legislation with regard to Massachusetts children being treated for glass lacerations (before and after passage) and attributed a sixty per cent decline in reported childhood glass lacerations due to the legislative enactment of the Massachusetts bottle law.

American Journal of Public Health[4] Baker, Moore, and Wise. October 1986. v. 76, no. 10

See also

  • Oregon Bottle Bill


Many provinces in Canada have deposit refund systems in place for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage containers: glass, plastic, and tetrapak containers have deposit requirements in various provinces. Deposits range from 5¢ to 40¢ per unit.

Ontario's system of deposit refunds for beer bottles, through the provincial government,[5] has close to a 98% return rate. The bottles can be cleaned and reused 15 to 20 times. Effective February 5, 2007, Ontario's container deposit applies to wine, spirit and beer containers.[6]


In Germany container deposit legislation, known in colloquial usage as Einwegpfand (single-use deposit), was passed in 2002, and was implemented on January 1, 2003. However, its implementation was fought by lobbying groups of German bottling industry and retailers. This fight also included trials at the Federal Administrative Court of Germany and the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, but all trials were won by the German federal government. The deposit legislation does not cover containers for Fruit Juice, Wine, Spirits/Liquors and certain dietary drinks.

The standard deposit for all single-use containers (Cans, single-use glass and plastic bottles): € 0.25

The deposits for reusable bottles are not regulated by law since they are the private business of the individual beverage manufacturer and can therefore vary in rate. Nonetheless there are some standard rates that are widely used :

  • glass-bottles for most beer and beer mixed drinks (usually up to 0.5 litre) : € 0.08
  • Reusable glass and plastic bottles for most soft drinks (usually up to 2 litres): € 0.15
  • Reusable glass bottles of a special kind and design (usually flip-top bottles for beer): between € 0.15 - € 0.50


Container deposit legislation is widespread in Scandinavia. In some cases it replaced legislations which forbid the selling of some types of beverage containers, particularly aluminium beverage cans.


In Denmark the selling of aluminium beverage cans was forbidden between 1982 and 2002. However this regulation violated European Union law. Therefore the EU forced Denmark to replace it, and the new legislation, passed in 2002, was in fact a container deposit legislation. It established the following container deposits:

  • Refillable glass bottles up to and incl. 0.5 litre: 1.00 DKK
  • Refillable glass bottles over 0.5 litre: 3.00 DKK
  • Cans, glass and plastic bottles under 1 litre: 1.00 DKK
  • Exception: Plastic bottles of 0.5 litre: 1.50 DKK
  • Cans, glass and plastic bottles of 1 litre and over: 3.00 DKK


Similarly to the situation in Denmark, the selling of aluminium beverage cans was forbidden in Norway up until the end of the 20th century. In 1999 a container deposit legislation was passed, which also abolished this regulation. Today, there are the following container deposits in Norway:

  • Cans, glass and plastic bottles up to 0.5 litre: 1.00 NOK
  • Cans, glass and plastic bottles over 0.5 litre: 2.50 NOK

Norsk Resirk[7] is the non-profit system founded 3 May 1999 and co-owned by various organisations in trade and industry that handles the depositing and recycling non-refillable plastic bottles and beverage cans in Norway. The Norwegian system works in such a way that the excise tax decreases as the returns increases, meaning that for example 90 per cent returns for cans translates into a 90 per cent discount on the excise tax. This again allows drink products to be sold at lower prices.

In 2005 93% of all recyclable bottles and 80% of all drink cans in Norway returned into the deposit and recycling system. That year also saw 280 million NOK in deposits being paid for the return of 194 million cans and 49 million bottles.

Deposits on drink containers have a long history in Norway, starting with deposits on beer bottles in 1902. The deposit back then was 0,06 NOK (3,30 NOK in 2006 currency value). This deposit arrangement was later expanded to include soft drink bottles.

Up until 1 January the Vinmonopolet government wine and spirits monopoly chain had deposits on products made by the company itself, this did not include imported products.

Today drink containers can be returned and deposits retrieved at over 9000 establishments in Norway, and there are almost 3000 deposit machines where drink containers can be exchanged for receipts that can be cashed in at the counter.


In Sweden, there are deposits on nearly all containers for consumption-ready beverages. 86%[8] of the aluminium cans and PET bottles affected by the deposit that are sold, are returned.

AB Svenska Returpack[9] is responsible for the deposit system for aluminium cans and PET bottles. The aluminum cans have had a deposit since 1984, and PET bottles since 1994. Swedish Glass Recycling[10] is responsible for the deposit system of glass bottles.

Until 1998, the hard alcohol and wine bottles sold at Systembolaget — the government owned alcohol retail monopoly — had a deposit as well, but due to the deregulation of the Systembolaget's suppliers, the former sole supplier V&S Group dropped the deposit on their bottles due to the restricted bottle shapes giving V&S a disadvantage compared to the competitors. The bottles could be returned and deposit refunded until early 1999 at Systembolaget.[11]

The legislation regarding container deposit systems was updated[12] so that from January 1 2006 containers from other plastics and metals, e.g. steel cans, can be included in the deposit systems. The law also makes it illegal in Sweden to sell consumption-ready beverages in containers that are not part of an authorized Swedish container deposit system, with the exception of beverages that mainly consist of dairy products or vegetable, fruit, or berry juice.

  • Cans: 0.50 SEK
  • 0.33 L glass bottle: 0.60 SEK
  • 0.50 L glass bottle: 0.90 SEK
  • ≤ 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 1.00 SEK
  • > 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 2.00 SEK
  • 1.5 L refillable PET bottle: 4.00 SEK


  • Aluminum cans: 0.15 €
  • 0.33 L glass bottle: 0.10 €
  • Bottles of wine and liquors (returned to Alko): 0.10€
  • 0.50 L refillable PET bottle: 0.20 €
  • 1.50 L refillable PET bottle: 0.40 €


The state of South Australia has a refund of 5 cents per can or bottle. Bottle deposit legislation has been changed since the 1970s when deposits ranged from 20c for a 30 oz bottle and 10c for a 10 oz and 6 1/2 oz bottle. With the introduction of plastic and non re-usable bottles the deposit was reduced to the current 5c (including aluminium cans).

A recent innovation has seen the deposit extended to paper cartons eg. flavoured milk and orange juice. The Beverage Container Act 1975 (SA) governs the levying and refund of deposits. The value of deposits and the scope of their application have been influenced by the Australian federal constitution's guarantee of free trade between the states. The defining case in this issue was the attempt to introduce a differential between re-usable and re-cyclable bottle deposits. The issue was taken to the High Court of Australia - Castlemaine Tooheys Ltd v South Australia.

Around 600 people are employed in the recovery of bottles in South Australia. Groups such as the Scouts operate container refund depots.[13] It is a noticeable feature of the current system that the cash amount of the refund ($0.05c) has never been increased in nearly thirty years, and those individuals who collect discarded bottles have thus never had a pay rise in that time. While there are professional collectors who collect on an arranged basis from particular venues (eg pubs and restaurants), usually operating small trucks for the job, there are also many socially marginalised collectors who forage in refuse bins etc for discarded deposit bottles; these collectors often travel by bicycle, sometimes with relatively elaborate modifications to allow them to carry the bulky loads of bottles they find.

Attempts to introduce similar legislation in other states have been thwarted by the lobbying power of the beverage industry.[14]

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Container_deposit_legislation". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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