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Survey: State Bottle Deposit Laws

Bottle bills have been characterized by at least one environmental organization as the "mother of producer responsibility" laws. A total of 11 states have enacted container deposit legislation: in addition to Oregon, which passed the first "bottle bill" in 1972, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Vermont all have enacted bottle deposit legislation. Until Hawaii's passage of its bottle bill in 2002, no state had enacted such legislation since 1986. In 2003, dozens of bills were introduced at the state level in attempts either to expand existing deposit laws or to enact such provisions in other states. Most of these were unsuccessful.

While beverage container laws vary from state to state in their coverage and fee structure, in general they require that consumers pay a deposit on individual beverage bottles that can be collected by returning the container to a retailer or a state-certified redemption center. Deposits are usually $0.05 per container, but have been set at higher levels for non-refillable, larger containers. The resulting recycling programs are often funded by the imposition of a processing or handling fee ranging from $0.018 to $0.03 per container to be paid by the beverage distributor, to the retailer or the state.

Intended to act as a financial incentive to consumers to recycle their beverage containers, deposit laws generally apply to carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, and beer and malt beverages that are packaged and sold to consumers in plastic, glass, aluminum and steel containers. Brief summaries of the eleven state bottle deposit laws follow.

California (year of passage 1986)

California's Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (A.B. 2020), originally enacted in 1986 and generally considered the most complex of the "bottle deposit" laws, was most recently amended this past month by legislation -- A.B. 28 -- signed into law by outgoing Governor Gray Davis on Oct. 10, 2003. The following summary is abbreviated; it is not intended to discuss comprehensively the 93-page law or the recent 25-page amendment to it. 1

Under California's beverage container law, distributors of beverage containers are required to pay a "redemption payment" to the Department of Conservation, for each beverage container sold, for deposit in the California Beverage Container Recycling Fund. This redemption payment may be passed onto retailers/consumers in the purchase price of the beverage. Consumers, in turn, are entitled to receive what is called the California "refund value" (CRV) similar to the bottle deposit paid by consumers in other bottle bill states upon return of the empty bottles to certified recycling centers.

At the return of empty containers to recycling centers, the Department of Conservation releases payments from the Recycling Fund to processors and recyclers.

Unlike all other bottle deposit states, California does not obligate retailers to accept empty containers. Rather, independent recycling centers have been established to accept empty containers and make payment of the CRV to consumers. Supermarkets may, though, establish recycling centers at their facilities, upon certification by the Department of Conservation.

A.B. 28 increased the amount of the redemption payment and refund value to 2.5 to 4 cents per container with a capacity of less than 24 ounces, and from 5 cents to 8 cents for containers with a capacity of 24 or more ounces. Significantly, the law locks in a further increase in the redemption payments and refund values on July 1, 2007 to 5 cents, and, if the beverage container has a capacity of 24 ounces or more, to 10 cents, if the aggregate recycling rate for all beverage containers is less than 75% for the 12-month reporting period or Jan.1, 2006 - Dec. 31, 2006, or any calendar year thereafter. The effective date of A.B. 28 is Jan. 1, 2004.

Under California's law, beverage manufacturers must pay "processing fees" to offset recyclers' costs when the cost of recycling exceeds the value of the container material recovered. The fees are paid to the Department of Conservation, which in turn makes "processing payments" to processors, drop-off or collection programs, curbside programs, or recycling centers "to ensure economic recovery." A.B. 28 also modifies the mechanism by which processing fees are set and imposed on beverage manufacturers, and ties processing fees to the recycling rates accomplished for particular container types. Further, under A.B. 28, processing fees will be paid based on the number of containers sold in the state rather than on the number of bottles redeemed in California.

Connecticut (1978)

The Connecticut Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Law mandates that every beverage container sold or offered for sale in the state have a refund value of not less than five cents.2 Beverage containers covered by the law include individual, separate, sealed glass, metal or plastic bottles, cans, jars or cartons.3 Covered beverages include beer or other malt beverages and mineral waters, soda water and similar carbonated soft drinks, in liquid form and intended for human consumption. 4

Individuals may set up independent redemption centers5 via registration with the Commissioner of Environmental Protection; registrants have the discretion under the Connecticut law to determine what kind, size and brand of beverage container the redemption center will accept. Further, redemption centers may choose to serve all persons or to serve certain specified dealers.6

Generally, dealers7 are required to accept at their place of business all empty beverage containers of the kind, size and brand sold by the dealer. Refusal by the dealer to pay the refund value of a beverage container is permitted only where a bottle contains foreign materials, where a container is not properly labeled (see below), or where a dealer sponsors a redemption center within a mile's radius of his business.

In addition to the refund value of a beverage container, distributors8 are required to pay a handling fee to a dealer or operator of a redemption center as follows:

(1) one and one-half cents for each container of beer or other malt beverage and

(2) two cents for each container of mineral water, soda water or carbonated soft drink returned for redemption.

Distributors are not required to pay to a manufacturer the refund value of a non-refillable beverage container.9

As with the requirements of most other state deposit laws, Connecticut's statute also requires that beverage containers be embossed, stamped, or labeled with (1) either the refund value of the container or the words "return for deposit" or "return for refund" and (2) either the word "Connecticut" or the abbreviation "CT."10

Finally, under the penalty provisions of the Connecticut Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Law, violations are subject to fines not less than $50 nor more than $100, and second offenses are subject to fines of not less than $100 nor more than $200. Third offenses are subject to fines not less than $250 nor more than $500. 11

Delaware (1982)

Delaware's Litter Control Act is the only deposit law that exempts aluminum cans from its reach: "beverage container" is defined as any airtight non-aluminous container which holds a beverage and which is less than 2 quarts in size.12 The deposit in Delaware applies to both refillable and non-refillable containers, and must equal at least 5 cents per container.13

Under the Delaware law, dealers must inform consumers that beverages are sold in returnable beverage containers by placing a prominent sign and/or a shelf label in close proximity to any sales display of beverages offered for sale in returnable beverage containers. These notices to the consumer must indicate the amount of the deposit required for each beverage container and that the beverage container is returnable.14 Similar to other bottle bill laws, Delaware's Litter Control Act requires that every beverage container sold or offered for sale in Delaware must indicate the deposit requirements by embossing, imprinting, stamping, etc., in at least one-quarter inch type size, the words "Delaware 5¢" or "DE 5¢," unless a greater value is indicated (e.g., "Delaware 10¢").15

Manufacturers16 and distributors17 are also required to pay dealers18 and redemption centers a handling fee of at least 20 percent of the deposit returned to the consumer.19

Hawaii (2002)

In 2002, Hawaii became the first state to enact bottle deposit legislation since 1986. Beginning Jan. 1, 2005, Hawaii will require a "deposit beverage container fee" of five cents for each polyethylene terephthalate, high density polyethylene, or metal deposit beverage container manufactured in or imported into the state. 20 The law imposes a one cent per container fee to cover the costs of redemption center operations, but provides for a phased-in approach. 21 (As of Oct. 1, 2002, a lower fee of 0.5 cent per container applies; on Oct. 1, 2004, it will increase to 1 cent per container, with the potential to be raised as high as 1.5 cents per container, depending on container recovery rates). On Jan. 1, 2005, consumers will be able to redeem the five-cent deposit upon return of a bottle to a grocery store or independent redemption center. Although the 1 cent redemption fee can be passed on to a consumer as part of the beverage price, it is not redeemable.

Hawaii's law is limited to beverage containers with volumes of less than or equal to 64 fluid ounces. 22 Covered beverages include beer, ale, or other malt drinks; mixed spirits; mixed wine; tea and coffee drinks regardless of dairy-derived product content; soda or noncarbonated water; and all nonalcoholic drinks in liquid form. 23

All fees and deposits generated under the system are to be placed into a "beverage container deposit special fund." Moneys in the fund will be used to reimburse refund values and pay handling fees to redemption centers, as well as conduct recycling education and demonstration projects, promote recyclable market development activities, and generally implement the deposit beverage container fee and deposit program, including permitting and enforcement activities.24

Generally speaking, dealers, or persons who sell beverages in deposit containers to a consumer for off-premises consumption, are required to operate redemption centers on-site, and must accept back all empty beverage containers with a Hawaii refund value.25 Independent redemption centers are allowed by the law, but are subject to state certification.26

Registration and record-keeping requirements are imposed by the law; all deposit beverage distributors in Hawaii were obligated to register with the state by September 1, 2002. New distributors are required to register a month in advance of doing business in Hawaii. Further, all deposit beverage distributors are required to maintain records reflecting the manufacture of their beverages in deposit beverage containers as well as the importation and exportation of deposit beverage containers. 27

As with most of the other bottle deposit states, Hawaii requires that the refund value and the word "Hawaii" or the letters "HI" be placed on each container. 28

Iowa (1978)

Iowa's Beverage Container Control law is one of the most stringent of the bottle deposit laws in force, absolutely barring the disposal of beverage containers that are captured by the law from Iowa sanitary landfills.29 Further, "plastic cans" (cans composed of both metal and plastic) are banned under the law. 30

Iowa's bottle deposit law sets a 5 cent deposit31 on beverage containers covered by the law, which include any sealed glass, plastic, or metal bottle, can, jar, or carton containers. 32 "Beverages" covered by the Beverage Container Control law include wine, liquor, beer, mineral water, soda water and similar carbonated soft drink;33 bottled water, tea, juices, or sport drinks are not included in the definition.34

"Distributors" (those who sell beverages in beverage containers to a dealer in this state, including manufacturers) 35 must reimburse "dealers" (those who sell beverages in beverage containers to a consumer)36 one cent per container. Under the law, distributors pick up containers weekly from dealers or redemption centers, and must pay the refund value within one week following the pickup of the containers, unless alternative arrangements are in place. 37

Any person may establish a redemption center, upon application to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, if the Department finds that the redemption center will provide a convenient service to consumers for the return of empty beverage containers. 38 Further, retailers and dealers may refuse to redeem beverage containers, provided they have arranged for a local redemption center to accept the beverage containers and such redemption center has been approved by the Department. 39 Likewise, non-refillable metal beverage containers may be refused by redemption centers. However, beer distributors who sell such containers must provide at least one facility in the county seat of each county where such refused containers can be accepted and redeemed. In cities with a population of 25,000 or more, the beer distributors must provide one redemption facility for each 25,000 persons. 40

Like many other bottle bill states, Iowa requires that the refund value be stamped, labeled, or otherwise affixed to containers. 41

Maine (1976)

The Maine Returnable Beverage Container Law applies to a wide variety of beverage containers, including those for beer, other malt liquors, spirits, wine, wine coolers; soda or noncarbonated water; and all nonalcoholic carbonated or noncarbonated drinks in liquid form. 42 Only dairy products and unprocessed ciders exempt from the law's definition of a beverage. 43 A beverage container is defined as a "bottle, can, jar or other container made of glass, metal or plastic that has been sealed by a manufacturer."44 Maine does not accept mixed material containers [for nonalcoholic beverages] if they are made of aluminum and plastic (or aluminum and paper), contain 10 percent or less aluminum, and the container materials represent 5 percent or less of the weight of the container.45 The state also does not accept for bottle bill recycling beverage containers with a greater than 4-liter capacity.46

Refillable and non-refillable containers of carbonated and malt beverages in Maine are assigned a deposit value of 5 cents per container. 47 Wine and liquor containers have a deposit value of 15 cents per container.48 Unlike some states, Maine allows retailers and dealers to refuse to redeem beverage containers, provided they are specifically listed on the local redemption center's operating license.49 The handling fee for each returned container, reimbursed by distributor to the retailer/dealer or redemption center is 3 cents.

Massachusetts (1981)

The Massachusetts Beverage Container Law, first enacted in 1981, provides for the typical bottle bill deposit value of five cents per beverage container.50 A beverage under the statute is defined as soda water or similar carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, and beer and other malt beverages, but does not include dairy products, natural fruit juices, wine, or other non-malt beverages.51 As long its materials are not biodegradeable, a covered beverage container can include any sealable bottle, can, jar, or carton which is primarily composed of glass, metal, plastic, or any combination of those materials.52 The implementing regulations for the Massachusetts bottle bill further refine the definition of a beverage container: it does not apply to containers having a capacity greater than two gallons.53

With regard to plastic beverage containers, Massachusetts has specific labeling requirements for any plastic bottle or rigid plastic container, or any product in such containers offered for sale in the state. Each container must identify, via the use of a resin identification code, the type of plastic resin of which it consists (e.g., PETE (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (high density polyethylene)).54

Massachusetts is the first state that included an "escheat" provision in its bottle bill legislation, which allows the state to collect all unclaimed or abandoned deposits.55 All bottlers or distributors are required to maintain a "Deposit Transaction Fund," in which all refund values for non-reusable beverage containers are placed and are later made available to the state.56 There is also a monthly reporting requirement associated with the maintenance of this fund.57 The handling fee, paid by a distributor to a dealer or retailer in exchange for the return of empty beverage containers, is 2.5 cents per container.58

Michigan (1976)

At 10 cents per beverage container, Michigan's Returnable Beverage Containers Law has the highest deposit of any of the 11 state bottle laws.59 Under the Michigan law, covered beverages include soft drinks, soda waters, carbonated natural or mineral water, or other nonalcoholic carbonated drinks; beer, ale, or other malt drink of whatever alcoholic content; or a mixed wine drink or a mixed spirit drink.60 Beverage containers made from metal, glass, paper, or plastic (or a mixture of these) are captured by the law, provided their volumes do not exceed one gallon. .61

"Dealers" who sell beverages for consumption "off-site" must provide collection points for the containers and redemption centers for deposits to be refunded, either on the dealer's premises, or within 100 yards of the premises,. The law also allows for the establishment of independent regional centers for the redemption of returnable containers, but not as a substitute for the dealer redemption sites.62

Michigan also requires that the beverage containers be stamped or labeled with the refund value of the container and the name of this state.63 Michigan's law imposes certain record-keeping requirements, calling for distributors or manufacturers who originate a deposit on a beverage container to file annual reports with the Michigan Department of Treasury. The reports must include the dollar value of both the total deposits collected and total refunds made upon the beverage containers.64

Significantly, 75 percent of unredeemed deposits are designated as state funds to support a "cleanup and redevelopment trust fund" and 25 percent are designated to return to retailers as handling fees.65

In 2003, the Michigan Senate established a special task force to examine the need for changes to the bottle bill, including its expansion to cover water and juice containers. Despite efforts by environmentalists and Governor Jennifer Granholm to expand the law, the Michigan Senate "Beverage Container and Recycling Task Force" recommended the bottle bill be left alone, and that household and commercial garbage disposal fees be increased by $3 a ton instead. 66 The task force also recommended the creation of a "recycling advisory council" to promote recycling, reduce litter, and provide grants to municipalities to support local recycling programs. In response to concerns from grocery store owners, the task force also recommended that the state examine the possibility of setting up independent bottle redemption centers to replace collection at grocery stores.

New York (1982)

Under New York's Returnable Container Act, every beverage container sold in the state -- whether refillable or non-refillable -- has a refund value of five cents.67 The statute applies to all beverage containers made from glass, metal, aluminum, steel or plastic, in bottle, can or jar form, with volumes of one gallon (or 3.8 liters) or less.68 Carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, soda water, beer, other malt beverages and "wine products" are captured by the definition of "beverage." "Malt beverage" is any beverage obtained by "the alcoholic fermentation or infusion or decoction of barley, malt, hops, or other wholesome grain or cereal and water including, but not limited to ale, stout or malt liquor."69

New York also requires that containers have their refund value marked on the container with the words "New York" or the letters "NY" indicated as well.70 Somewhat unusually, under the regulations implementing the New York Returnable Container Act, distributors are required to keep records of all deposits initiated, all deposits redeemed, all handling fees paid out and all unclaimed deposits retained.71 Each distributor must keep these records according to generally accepted accounting principles and must report the information to the New York Commissioner of Environmental Conservation at his or her request.

A violation of New York's law is considered to be a "public nuisance" and subject to a civil penalty of not more than $500, and an additional civil penalty of not more than $500 for each day the violation continues.72

Oregon (1971)

Oregon was the first state to enact bottle deposit legislation, and is the only state of the 11 deposit states that does not impose a processing fee on bottle manufacturers. Under Oregon's requirements, every beverage container sold or offered for sale in the state has a refund value of not less than five cents, unless certified by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission as a "reusable beverage container." Such re-usable beverage containers have a refund value of not less than two cents.73

The statute also allows any individual in the state to set up redemption centers, subject to the approval of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, at which any person may return empty beverage containers and receive payment of the noted refund values.74 Oregon's bottle law applies to "beer or other malt beverages and mineral waters, soda water and similar carbonated soft drinks in liquid form and intended for human consumption."75

As with many of the bottle deposit laws, Oregon's statute requires that all beverage containers sold in the state indicate the refund value of the container on the bottle, by either embossing or stamp, or by label.76

Vermont (1972)

One of the first states to enact bottle deposit legislation, Vermont requires that consumers pay a 5 cent deposit on all beverage containers sold at retail (except those containing liquor). Liquor containers with volumes greater than 50 ml are subject to a deposit of 15 cents. .77 Upon return of the empty bottle to retailers or designated redemption centers, the deposit is refunded to the consumer. Beverage is broadly defined by the statute to include beer or other malt beverages, mineral waters, mixed wine drink, soda water, carbonated soft drinks, and liquor, all "in liquid form and intended for human consumption."78

With the approval of the Vermont Secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, a retailer may refuse to redeem beverage containers if a redemption center or centers are established which serve the public need.79

Further, beverage container manufacturers are obligated to reimburse retailers that operate redemption centers in an amount that is "at least the greater of two cents per container or twenty percent of the amount of the deposit returned to the consumer."80 The Vermont legislation also has a labeling component: every beverage container sold or offered for sale in the state must also label the container with the word "Vermont" or the letters "VT" and the refund value of the container in not less than one-eighth inch type size.81

Violations of the Vermont bottle deposit legislation are subject to penalties of $1,000.00 per violation.82


1Additional information may be found at

2 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 22a-244(1).

3Id. at § 22a-243(2).

4Id. at § 22a-243(1).

5"Redemption center" is defined by the Connecticut law to mean "any facility established to redeem empty beverage containers from consumers or to collect and sort empty beverage containers from dealers and to prepare such containers for redemption by the appropriate distributors." Id. at § 22a-243(8).

6Id. at § 22a-245.

7 "Dealer" is defined by the Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Law as "every person who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers to a consumer." Id. at § 22a-243(4).

8 "Distributor" means every person who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers to a dealer, including any manufacturer "who engages in such sale and includes a dealer who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers on which no deposit has been collected prior to retail sale." Id. at § 22a-243(5).

9Id. at § 22a-245(d).

10Id. at § 22a-244.

11Id. at § 22a-246.

12 Del. Code. Ann. tit. 7, § 6052(b). "Beverage" includes "mineral waters (but not including naturally sparkling mineral waters), soda waters or any other carbonated beverage not containing alcohol that is commonly known as a "soft drink" and any beer, ale or other malt beverage containing alcohol." Del. Code. Ann. Tit. 7, § 6052(a).

13Id. at § 6054.

14Id. at § 6053.

15Id. at § 6055.

16 "Manufacturer" is defined as "any person who bottles, cans, packs or otherwise fills beverage containers for sale to distributors or dealers." Id. at § 6052(i).

17"Distributor" means "any person who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers to a dealer including any manufacturer who engages in such sale." Id. at § 6052(h).

18"Dealer" is defined to include "any person who engages in the sale of beverages in beverage containers to a consumer and shall include groups of retailers or retail chains." Id. at § 6052(e).

19Id. at § 6057.

20 Haw. Rev. Stat. § 342G-110.

21 Section § 342G-102 of the Hawaii legislation establishes a tiered schedule of deposit beverage container fee payments:


· As of Oct. 1, 2002, distributors are required to pay a fee on covered containers of 0.5 cents per beverage container; · On Oct. 1, 2004, this fee will increase to 1 cent per container;


· On Jan. 1, 2005, the deposit beverage container fees will be based on a previous calendar quarter's recycling rates: (1) If the recovery rate is 70 percent or less: 1 cent per container; and (2) If the recovery rate is greater than 70 percent: 1.5 cent per container.

Haw. Rev. Stat. § 342G-102.

22Id. at § 342G-101.

23Id. at § 342G-101.

24Id. at § 342G-104.

25Id. at § 342G-113. Certain exemptions from this requirement -- such as for dealers located in rural areas -- are provided for by this section of the Hawaii statute.

26Id. at § 342G-114.

27Id. at § 342G-103.

28Id. at § 342G-112.

29 Iowa Code § 455C.16 (1999).

30Id. at § 455C.15.

31Id. at § 455C.2.

32Id. at § 455C.1 (2).

33Id. at § 455C.1 (1). However, the State's alcoholic beverages division will not reimburse a dealer or a distributor the refund value on an empty wine or liquor container which is marked to indicate that it was sold by a state liquor store; dealers and distributors may refuse to accept and to pay the refund value on these containers. See Iowa Code § 455C.4.

34Id. at § 455C.1.

35Id. at § 455C.1(9).

36Id. at § 455C.1(5).

37Id. at § 455C.3.

38Id. at § 455C.6.

39Id. at § 455C.4.

40Id. at § 455C.14.

41Id. at § 455C.5.

42 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, § 1862(1).

43Id. at § 1862; Code Me. R. § 360(B).

44 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, § 1862(2).

45Id. at § 1862(2).


47 Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 32, § 1863-A(1).

48Id. at § 18630-A(4).