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Container deposit legislation are laws passed by city, state, provincial, or national governments that require that a deposit on carbonated, milk, 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 jurisdictions, the deposit is partially or completely refunded to the consumer.

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.

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

Deposit notice on a bottle sold in Continental U.S., indicating the container's deposit value in various states.

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

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.

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%.

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.

U.S. 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:

  • Californiamarker (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"; legislation pending that would expand program to include all plastic bottles (shampoo, food, etc)
  • Connecticutmarker (5 cents), 1980; not charged on milk (deposit on water bottles just went into effect Oct 1, 2009)
  • Delawaremarker (5 cents), 1982
  • Hawaiimarker (5 cents), 2005
  • Iowamarker (5 cents for containers that held carbonated beverages), 1979 (also applies to wine bottles)
  • Mainemarker (5 cents, also applies to fruit juice and bottled water; 15 cents for some wine bottles), 1978
  • Massachusettsmarker (5 cents for containers that held carbonated beverages), enacted in 1982 with expansion proposed in 2009
  • Michiganmarker (10 cents non-refillable, 5 cents refillable), 1978
  • New Yorkmarker (5 cents), 1982; for containers that held carbonated beverages (water bottles now included, went into effect Oct 31, 2009)
  • Oregonmarker (5 cents), 1972
  • Vermontmarker (5 cents; 15 cents for most liquor bottles as of 1990), 1973

These state laws vary as to the types of containers for which a deposit is required, but generally include glass, metal, and plastic beverage containers.

Systems used to collect empty containers


Many provinces in Canada have deposit refund systems in place for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage containers: glass, plastic, aluminum, 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 Beer Store" (The Beer Store is owned by three Ontario brewers: Labatt, Molson and Sleeman), has close to a 100% return rate. The bottles can be cleaned and reused 15 to 20 times. Effective February 5, 2007, Ontario's container deposit applies to wine and spirit, in addition to beer containers. However, even though spirits may only be purchased at government run stores (LCBO) and wine may only be purchased there and at specialty wine shops and directly from wineries, these bottles may only be returned for deposit refund at The Beer Store.


In Germanymarker container deposit legislation, known as Pfand or Einwegpfand (single-use deposit), was passed in 2002, and was implemented on 1 January 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 Germanymarker and the Federal Constitutional Court of Germanymarker, 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

Before 2002, there also were various (still existing) deposit systems for re-usable bottles, e.g. for beer or carbonated water bottles. 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

Before introduction of the Euro, deposit was 15 Pfennig for reusable (beer) glass-bottles and usually 30 Pfennig for reusable glass and plastic bottles.


PET soda bottles carry a 25-cent desposit. Glass beer bottles carry a 10-cent deposit with a further 1,50 euro deposit for the plastic crate.


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 Denmarkmarker 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 Norwaymarker 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
  • Bottle crates are also reverse vended.

Norsk Resirk 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 2001 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 9,000 establishments in Norway, and there are almost 3,000 reverse vending machines where drink containers can be exchanged for receipts that can be cashed in at the counter. Most reverse vending machines in Norway are manufactured by Tomra Systems ASAmarker.


In Swedenmarker, there are deposits on nearly all containers for consumption-ready beverages. Of the aluminium cans and PET bottles that affected by the deposit that are sold, 86% are returned. The return rates for the two glass bottle types are 99% and 90% respectively.

AB Svenska Returpack 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. Svensk GlasÅtervinning AB is responsible for the deposit system of glass bottles. The bottles were first standardized in 1885.

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.

The legislation regarding container deposit systems was updated 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

The 1.5 L refillable PET bottle with a deposit of 4.00 SEK has been discontinued, and has been replaced by the 1.5 L non-refillable PET bottle. The last day for returning bottles made by Spendrups for deposit was 30 June, 2007, and the last day for bottles made by Coca-Cola Sweden was 30 June 2008.


  • 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 €

United Kingdom

Until the turn of the 21st century most British bottled beer was sold in standard pint or half-pint bottles, although some brewers preferred their own distinctive designs. However, in the absence of legislation, and given the switch from pub to supermarket sales, the industry has now entirely abandoned refillable bottles.


The state of South Australiamarker currently has a refund of 10 cents per can or bottle (raised from 5 cents in late 2008). In the 1970s 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 5c (including aluminium cans). This amount remained unchanged for around thirty years.

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. 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 and inventive modifications to allow them to carry the bulky loads of bottles they find.

Victoriamarker had a scheme, but it was rescinded. In 2009, such a scheme was reintroduced, but then after the Victorian Greens bill for a 10c deposit scheme was passed in State Government, it was again rescinded.

A national scheme has also been proposed.Attempts to introduce similar legislation in other states have been unsuccessful to date.

External links

See also

Reverse vending machine


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