In response to the growing litter problem of the 1960's and 1970's, activists and policymakers in Oregon and Vermont fought successfully to secure mandatory refundable deposits on throwaway beverage containers. Encouraged by their success, advocates in dozens of other states campaigned for deposit laws, and by 1986, bottle bills were in place in 10 states.
Today, litter prevention is still a potent motivation for activists, although many bottle bill efforts are also being driven by the desire to increase recycling and promote producer responsibility. Government-funded studies conducted pre- and post-bottle bill in seven states showed reductions in beverage container litter ranging from 69% to 84%, and reductions in total litter ranging from 30% to 65%. More studies, described below, affirm 4 basic conclusions about bottle bills.
Beverage containers make up a large proportion of litter
- Pennsylvania Litter Research Study - 2020
- Dutch Study on Caps - 2017
- Toronto Litter Report - 2016
- Michigan Litter Clean Up Costs - 2015
- Virginia Adopt-a-Highway Report - 1998
- Kentucky Litter Survey - 1999
- Washington State Litter Study - 2000
- Virginia - Talkin' Trash - Middleburg litter Cleanup - 2004
- Tennessee - X Marks the Spot - 2006
- Maryland - The Trash that Enters Baltimore Harbor - 2007
- Worldwide - International Coastal Cleanup - 2010
States with bottle bills have less litter.
- Littered Bottles and Cans: Higher in Virginia Than in States with Bottle Bills - Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood Virginia - November 2020
- The proportion of containers found in coastal debris surveys in states with CDL was approximately 40% lower than in states without CDL.
- Results of litter studies in bottle bill states
- Reduced litter leads to reduced glass injuries
- Hawaii Coastal Cleanup Data and the Bottle Bill
Expanding existing bottle bills would reduce litter further.
- California - Litter Strategy - 2018
- California - NRDC Waste in Our Water - August 2013
- Massachusetts - Worcester Litter Cleanup - April 26, 2003
- New York - The Scenic Hudson Great River Sweep - June 7, 2003
- Massachusetts - Charles River Cleanup - April 12, 2003
- New York - International Coastal Cleanup - 2003
- Massachusetts - Blackstone Valley Riverways Cleanup Day - October 28, 2007
- New York - Buried in Trash - February 2008 [pdf,692kb]
Other methods of litter prevention are less effective
- Litter Taxes - from the Environmental Action Foundation.
- Don't Mess With Texas. 2005 Cleanup data suggests anti-litter campaigns are ineffective.
- Litter Things Cost a Lot - July 2005, Resource Recycling. [PDF, 300KB]