According to the Container Recycling Institute, only 10 U.S. states currently have container deposit laws in place, ranging from 5 cents to 15 cents depending on the beverage.

The first bottle bill was passed by the state of Vermont in 1953. It was not a "bottle bill" as the way we know them now, as it only only banned the sale of beer in non-refillable bottles, and did not institute a deposit system.

The first container deposit law (or bottle bill by the current meaning) requiring refundable deposits on all beer and soft drink containers was passed in Oregon in 1971, with the goal of reducing beverage container litter, conserving natural resources, and reducing the amount of solid waste going to landfills.

It's a matter or personal opinion (share your own in our poll at the bottom of the page or leave a comment), but the benefits of bottle bills seem to far surpass the drawbacks for beverage and retail industries.

A nationwide poll in 1993 found that 3 out of 4 Americans would support a national container deposit law—strong support before we knew what we know now about environmental impact. Despite the widespread support bottle bills generally have in a community, members of beverage production and retail industries consistently attempt to have existing laws repealed, and to prevent new legislation.

States with bottle bills currently in place (ordered by date of enactment):

1. Oregon, The Beverage Container Act

  • Date enacted: July 7, 1971
  • Containers covered: Any individual, separate, sealed glass, metal or plastic bottle, can, jar containing a beverage
  • Amount of deposit: Standard refillable: 2 cents; all others 5 cents (with potential to increase to 10 cents)

2. Vermont, Beverage Container Law

  • Date enacted: April 7, 1972
  • Containers covered: Any bottle, can, jar or carton composed of glass, metal, paper, plastic or any combination (Biodegradables excluded)
  • Amount of deposit: Liquor: 15 cents, all other containers 5 cents

3. Maine, Maine Returnable Beverage Container Law

  • Date enacted: January 2, 1976
  • Containers covered: liters or less, excluding aseptics
  • Amount of deposit: Wine/liquor 15 cents, all others containers 5 cents

4. Michigan, Michigan Beverage Container Law

  • Date enacted: November 2, 1976
  • Containers covered: Any airtight metal, glass, paper, or plastic container, or a combination, under 1 gallon
  • Amount of deposit: 10 cents

5. Iowa, Beverage Container Deposit Law

  • Date enacted: April 1, 1978
  • Containers covered: Any sealed glass, plastic, or metal bottle, can, jar or carton containing a beverage
  • Amount of deposit: 5 cents

6. Connecticut,Beverage Container Deposit and Redemption Law

  • Date enacted: April 12, 1978
  • Containers covered: Any individual, separate, sealed glass, metal or plastic bottle, can, jar or carton containing a beverage. Excluded are containers over 3L containing non-carbonated beverages, and HDPE containers
  • Amount of deposit: 5 cents

7.  Massachusetts,Beverage Container Recovery Law

  • Date enacted: June 4, 1981
  • Containers covered: Any sealable bottle, can, jar, or carton of glass, metal, plastic, or combo. Biodegradables are excluded.
  • Amount of deposit: 5 cents

8. New York, New York State Returnable Container Law

  • Date enacted: June 15, 1982
  • Containers covered: An individual, separate, sealed glass, metal, aluminum, steel or plastic bottle, can or jar less than 1 gallon or 3.78 liters.
  • Amount of deposit: 5 cents

9. California, California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (AB 2020)

  • Date enacted: September 29, 1986
  • Containers covered: Aluminum, glass, plastic and bi-metal. Refillables exempt. 
  • Amount of deposit: Containers 24 oz. or larger: 10 cents, containers under 24 oz.: 5 cents

10. Hawaii, Solid Waste Management; Deposit Beverage Container Law (Act 176)

  • Date enacted: June 25, 2002
  • Containers covered: Aluminum, bi-metal, glass, plastic (PET and HDPE only) up to 68 oz.
  • Amount of deposit: All containers 5 cents

Several overarching benefits of bottle deposit laws include the creation of new jobs in the recycling industry, cleaner and sturdier recyclable materials, and of course, minimized environmental impact of beverage containers. A common myth argued by some opponents of these laws is that distributors incur the cost of recycling beverage container waste. Someone does need to carry the cost, but that will fall either on government, beverage consumers, or brand-owners, since distributors removed back-hauling from their distribution (on top of that, they also have the option of defraying handling costs to customers).

If the overarching benefits aren’t qualification enough, there are likely additional long-term impacts of these laws that can't be seen or measured. It's psychological conditioning that eventually works to the greater good: the deposit/recycle/refund process required of bottle bills eventually becomes routine for residents. Residents indifferent about the environmental benefits of their recycling will still have a positive association with the process, because they know they will get their refund  when they recycle. People who do feel gratification reducing their personal impact get a double dose: the positive association with their actions, and the positive association with their refund.

Do you think bottle bills promote civic responsibility by force of habit? After you take our general poll, comment below if you'd like to keep the conversation going.


Question of the Week: Should more states pass container deposit laws? <Tweet This>
Only 10 states currently have bottle bills in place. Should citizens push for more? <Tweet This>