Bottle Deposit Bills Explained

March 4, 2021   |   Blog

One way that some states help encourage recycling and the reduction of litter is through bottle bills or beverage container deposit laws. Currently in the U.S., ten states have bottle bills: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon and Vermont.

But what exactly is a container deposit law?

When a grocery store or other establishment purchases beverages for resale, a deposit is paid to the distributor for each container purchased. When the beverage container is purchased by the consumer, they pay the deposit fee to the retailer. When the empty container is returned for proper recycling, the deposit is refunded to the consumer. Unredeemed bottle deposits are often returned to the state or kept by the beverage distributor. Bottle bill specifics vary based on the state, with refunds ranging from two cents to 15 cents per bottle.

Recently, state legislators have been eager to update old container deposit laws. For example, in Massachusetts, recent legislation was introduced to increase the deposit fee from five cents to 10 cents per container. Similarly, in Iowa, legislators want to update the 40-plus-year-old bottle bill to reflect current times. In Rhode Island, policymakers would like to implement a 50-cent deposit-refund program for mini alcohol containers, also referred to as “nip” bottles.

At the federal level, bottle bill legislation has been discussed. This week, the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. If passed, this bill would implement a nation-wide bottle deposit program.