Issue Statement – Bottle Deposits

Issue Statement – Bottle Deposits





POSITION: IBWA is opposed to forced deposit programs.

BACKGROUND: In 1971, Oregon adopted the nation’s first bottle bill for carbonated soft drinks and beer containers that required consumers to pay a deposit at retail and return containers to retailers for the redemption. Since then, an additional eight states enacted almost identical programs. A tenth state, California, chose a complex hybrid that took the retailer out of the redemption program and collected processing fees from beverage manufacturers and distributors to partially subsidize the third-party collection/redemption centers. The ten deposit states are Oregon, Iowa, Michigan, California, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Delaware and Massachusetts.

-Until California expanded their program in 1999 to include bottled water and other beverages, only Maine required a deposit on non-carbonated water. (Carbonated waters have always been covered in all ten programs.) Efforts to expand deposit programs to include bottled water, juices and teas are routine in all existing deposit states. While this is usually attempted legislatively, Oregon voters defeated a ballot measure in 1996 that sought a program expansion.

-Numerous non-deposit states have considered deposits on both carbonated and noncarbonated beverages. These states include, but are not limited to, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Virginia, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Hawaii, Georgia, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

-In 2000, the beverage industry will face a serious challenge in Kentucky, currently a non-deposit state. The House Majority Leader has made this a #1 legislative priority and has made his deposit bill House Bill 1. In addition, the governor announced a similar proposal. An expansion will be attempted in Michigan and a new program will be proposed in New Hampshire.

-A plan put forward by the Massachusetts Food Association seeks to replace the state’s bottle deposit law with a comprehensive residential and business recycling system, funded by a beverage surcharge. However, the surcharge would be levied on all containers, not just the carbonated beverages covered by the existing deposit. Also, the surcharge is different for all beverages.


-Expanding deposits to non-carbonated drinks would not significantly reduce litter or solid waste, since, in general, only about 2 percent of roadside litter consists of the non-carbonated drink containers targeted by expanded bottle bills. In bottle bill states, beer and soda containers that already have deposits account for about the same percentage.

-Curbside recycling is a far more efficient and equitable alternative to forced deposits. Curbside programs rely heavily on high value recyclable beverage containers for funding, and deposit programs raid this dependable funding source.

-Maine’s experiment with bottle deposits indicates some of the potential problems. Manufacturers located outside the state are forced to hire third-party agents to pick up their empty redeemed containers. Those costs have ranged as high as 30 cents per container. Fraudulent redemptions are a constant problem and reported return rates on non-carbonated drinks frequently exceed 100 percent.

-Forced deposits extended to non-carbonated beverages would mean higher product costs, higher store costs, higher enforcement costs and higher recycling costs. Ultimately, all of these costs would be passed on to consumers. Yet, despite the price tag, even a successful expanded bottle bill leave 98 percent of a state’s roadside litter totally untouched.

-Only ten states in the nation have adopted this kind of legislation and no state has done so in almost twenty years-the reason for that is this is a tired, old and bad idea.

-More than any other segment of the food industry, the bottled water industry already contributes significantly to solid waste reduction through the use of refillable containers for home and office cooler service.