The COVID-19 pandemic has led most U.S. deposit states and some Canadian provinces to temporarily halt enforcement actions on retailers who suspend bottle & can redemption activities for the duration of the outbreak. Generally speaking, these announcements do not affect redemption centers, who are free to close their doors in the interests of safety if they so choose.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Please save bottles & cans for recycling! If you live in one of the states or provinces listed below, please rinse your bottles & cans so they don’t smell while you save them for later redemption. Please note that if curbside pickup is still operating in your area, the containers may not be recycled if area materials recovery facilities (MRFs) have reduced their sorting lines to protect worker health. To avoid your bottles & cans going to landfill, rinse & save for later redemption!
Announcements for Selected U.S. Deposit States:
California: On April 22, an Executive Order was issued by Governor Newsom to suspend the requirement that recycling centers (redemption centers) operate a minimum number of hours per week. The suspension is slated to last 60 days. Retailers also get a 60-day reprieve from taking back containers. See paragraphs 10 and 11 in Governor's Executive Order N-54-20, which direct the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to develop and issue guidelines by April 27. See: Guidance to Recycling Centers and Beverage Retailers (April 28).
The State also issued a guidance sheet for grocers that discusses safe handling of recyclables and other things during the pandemic.
Additionally, there are reports of private companies temporarily shutting down their recycling activities voluntarily, among them: Waste Management in California has temporarily closed several CRV "buy-back" centers that they operate: https://www.wm.com/weather-alert/california.jsp Edco has also temporarily closed a few CRV redemption centers: https://www.edcodisposal.com/signal-hill/where-do-i-take-it/signal-hill-edco-station.htm
Connecticut: Suspension of enforcement actions against retailers for failing to accept empty beverage containers for redemption. Effective Mar. 17 – 31 (see Official announcement by CT DEEP and Statement from Connecticut Citizens for the Environment). Extended to April 30 (personal communication with Edith Pestana, CT DEEP). Extended to May 20: DEEP is working with retailers and redemption centers to resume "limited" state-wide redemption at locations where services were suspended, and to plan for resuming full redemption services by June 3, 2020 (see DEEP announcement and DEEP May 6 press release).
Iowa: Suspension of regulatory provisions requiring dealers [retailers] to accept empty deposit beverage containers. Effective for duration of this disaster emergency. See Section 18 of the Governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency (March 17). See also Section One Hundred Nineteen (119) of the Governor’s Proclamation of Disaster Emergency (April 27), which extends the suspension for the duration of the State of Emergency, currently slated to expire on May 27, 2020.
Maine: Suspension of enforcement on retailers and redemption centers for failing to accept beverage containers; Effective Mar. 18 – 31, extended to April 30. Maine Recycling and Returnable Services (TOMRA) and CLYNK are both operating and picking up from redemption centers. See: Official announcement from Maine DEP and announcement from CLYNK.com. April 15 extension: personal communication with Scott Wilson, Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
Massachusetts: Suspension of enforcement of the requirements for retailers to accept beverage containers that have a deposit, effective immediately until further notice. See: Official announcement from the Mass. DEP and the Attorney General’s Office. Enforcement activities will resume in two phases: 1) Retailers using reverse vending machines (RVMs): June 5, 2020. 2) Retailers accepting containers over the counter: June 19, 2020. See: Official announcement from the MassDEP (May 29, 2020).
Michigan: Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life, defining bottle return as not an essential service or critical infrastructure. "There will be no change in the deposit collected at the time of purchase during this temporary suspension of bottle return services." See: Michigan Executive Order, No. 2020-21.
New York: The DEC will not actively enforce violations at facilities unable to fulfill redemption operations due to resource restrictions during the ongoing COVID-19 response efforts. See: Official announcement from New York DEP. The resumption of enforcement is scheduled for no later than June 3, 2020. See: announcement from NY DEP (accessed 5/27/2020).
Oregon: Suspension of enforcement actions against retailers that choose not to redeem empty beverage containers covered under Oregon’s Bottle Bill. Originally ended March 31, 2020; extended through May 31. BottleDrop redemption centers and Express locations will continue to accept green and blue bags at certain locations. See: First official announcement from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). See: Announcement of extension to April 30. See: Announcement of extension to May 31. See: OLCC discussion of phased re-opening (accessed 5/21/20).
Vermont: Temporarily stops pursuing enforcement action against retailers or redemption centers (RCs) who fail to redeem beverage containers subject to Vermont’s bottle bill law. Originally effective through April 30, 2020: see March 18 Official announcement from the VT Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). See April 20 update: Bottle Bill Enforcement Discretion Statement: extends "enforcement discretion" through duration of State of Emergency, contingent upon retailers and RCs scheduling a plan for coming back into compliance.
No announcements yet for: Hawaii.
States with Shelter in place or Stay at Home Orders: The following states currently have shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders that may inhibit consumers from returning their deposit containers for refund even if redemption centers remain open in their states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma (partial restrictions), Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
Announcements for Canadian Provinces:
New Brunswick: The cessation of redemption activities is implied by declaration of State of Emergency, Office of the Premier, "All businesses in retail sales will stop admitting patrons;" redemption activities are not among the exceptions to this prohibition.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Although beverage container redemption centers are not listed among businesses required to close, the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB) has announced that all 56 Green Depots are closed to the public, citing "direction from the Provincial Government under the Public Health Protection and Promotion Act."
Ontario: Although the provincial government has classified recycling as an essential business, The Beer Store (the entity that both sells beer and provides deposit beverage container refunds) announced on March 18 that it was [voluntarily] temporarily reducing its store hours and halting its recycling operations at all locations across the province from March 19-31. On April 1, it announced that recycling operations would resume at a limited number of locations (71 out of 450), with reduced hours, beginning on April 6, citing a goal of having enough personal protective equipment for all employees. Also on April 1, The Financial Post reported that the shortage of refillable glass bottles being returned has caused beer brand owners to plan to shift a portion of their output from glass bottles to aluminum cans. On April 24, the Daily Hive reported that the Beer Store had resumed limited operations at more than 200 locations; that list can be found here.
Quebec: While "collection and sorting services for recyclable materials" is deemed an "essential service," and while "the risk of contamination remains low" [for container redemption], the province has asked consumers to keep used containers at home, and to claim the deposit refund when the situation has returned to normal. According to Recyc-Quebec's webpage, redemption activities across the province have been resuming gradually since May 18. They are scheduled to resume fully in two stages: all retailers in Quebec except Montreal on June 8, and Montreal on June 22. See Recyc-Quebec's May 28 press release. (Both pages accessed on 5/28/20, Google translation from the French.)
Saskatchewan: SARCAN closes all locations as of March 21st, 2020 https://www.sarcan.ca/public/
No changes announced yet for: Alberta, British Columbia, other Canadian provinces.