Bottle Bill Resource Guide

Although support for deposit laws is widespread, some groups, like members of the beverage production and retail industries, consistently try to prevent bottle bills from being passed or expanded, as well as attempt to repeal existing deposit laws.

In addition to spending huge sums of money to defeat container deposit legislation, these opponents have also tried to sway public opinion in their favor. Their arguments concentrate on the increased costs to bottlers, distributors and retailers, which they claim result in higher prices to consumers.  They also contend that bottle bills reduce sales and eliminate jobs in the container manufacturing industry.  More recently, they have argued that municipal recycling programs are a more comprehensive means of reducing solid waste and that bottle bills ‘rob’ curbside recycling programs of the valuable aluminum beverage cans, thereby reducing program revenues.

These arguments are not true! The following is a list of common arguments made by bottle bill opponents, followed by facts that support the case for bottle bills.



Deposit systems target only a small part of the waste stream.

While beverage containers constitute less than 6% of the waste stream by weight [1], the upstream environmental effects of container wasting are disproportionately high compared to other recyclables.. For example, beverage containers account for 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from landfilling a ton of MSW and replacing the wasted products with new products made from virgin materials. [2]

Deposit systems address only a small portion of litter.

Beverage containers comprise 40-60% of litter in non-deposit states. The Solid Waste Coordinators of Kentucky found that 58% of litter collected consisted of beverage containers, pull tabs, and closures.[3] A 2020 Pennsylvania Litter Study found that plastic beverage containers represent over a quarter (25.8%) of all large litter. [4] Deposit laws significantly reduce container litter AND other types of litter. In 2019, beverage containers comprised 22% of all litter in Virginia, in contrast to only 8.69% on average in deposit states. [5]
Deposits aren’t needed where there is curbside recycling. Curbside recycling and deposit systems are not mutually exclusive. Together they can be part of a comprehensive approach to recycling. Not only are combined curbside and deposit systems more effective than curbside recycling programs alone, the materials collected through deposit programs are of a much higher quality than materials collected through curbside recycling programs. CalRecycle reported that materials collected through single-stream resulted in poorer scrap quality, making it more difficult to recycle than deposit-stream materials. [6]
Deposit return is inconvenient (consumers prefer home curbside bins). Curbside is still not available to 27% of the American population. [7] Curbsides don’t address away-from-home consumption. More and more stores also accept beverage containers in the store, or redemption centers open up close by, making special trips rare.
Deposits rob curbside programs of valuable aluminum can revenue. As it is, curbside programs are failing to adequately capture aluminum cans. Curbside programs do not target cans consumed away from home. Aluminum cans are gradually being supplanted by plastic bottles. [8] Deposits reduce collection costs by removing cumbersome, low-value glass and plastic bottles from the stream. It is also illogical to expect curbside recycling to generate revenue when this expectation has never been made of landfilling or incineration.
Deposits are more expensive than other recycling programs. While their initial costs may be more, deposits are much more effective than other recycling and waste reduction programs, resulting in greater cost-efficiency. The BEAR report found that a combination of recycling methods in 10 deposits states recycles 490 containers per capita per year, at a cost of 1.53¢/unit, vs. 191 containers per capita per year at 1.25¢/unit in 40 non-deposit states. Beverage container recovery rates in deposit states are more than 2.5 times higher than in states without bottle bills. [9] As well, under deposit systems, the cost of recycling is borne by producers and consumers, not by government and taxpayers.
Deposit returns are expensive for distributors. Disposal, curbside recycling, and bottle deposits all have some associated cost; the main difference lies is if the cost will be held by government or by brand-owners, distributors, and beverage consumers. Distributors have taken back-hauling out of the distribution system; they have the ability to design it back in. Distributors have the option of passing the cost of handling on to consumers.
“Deposits are a tax” and increase the price of beverages. Bottle bill opponents call bottle bills "a tax". However, bottle deposits are refundable, meaning the consumer receives their money back. Non-depost beverage containers, meanwhile, are a corporate subsidy, or a hidden tax. Many taxpayers also absorb the costs of recycling beverage containers through curbside recycling programs. When there is a refundable deposit on beverage containers, the consumers (not taxpayers) pay the deposit. The deposit is refunded if the container is returned. Beverage distributors and bottlers absorb the cost of collection. They then choose whether or not to pass their costs on to their consumers. Because 70% or more of the deposit containers are returned, taxpayers pay less for disposal, less for litter pickup, and less for curbside recycling.


[1] "Municpal Solid Waste in the United States: 2011 Facts and Figures." United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2013.

[2] “Energy to Waste: Measuring diversion by weight distracts us from more environmentally revelant criteria." Valiante, Usman. Solid Waste & Recycling. April/May 2000. [Print Media.]

[3] "Litter in Kentucky: A View from the Field." Solid Waste Coordinators of Kentucky. May 1999.

[4] "Pennsylvania Litter Research Study." Burns & McDonnell. January 2020.

[5] "Littered Bottles and Cans: Higher in Virginia Than in States with Bottle Bills." Register, Kathleen. Clean Virginia Waterways of Longwood University. 2020.

[6] "An Analysis of the Beverage Container Recycling Program." California Legislative Analyst's Office. 29 April 2015.

[7] "SPC: 94% of US residents have access to recycling, but not all curbside." Rosengren, Cole. Waste Dive. 17 January 2017.

[8] "Beverage Packaging in the U.S., 2000 Edition." Beverage Marketing Corporation. October 2000.

[9] "Understanding Beverage Container Recovery: A Value Chain Assessment Prepared for the Multi-Stakeholder Recovery Project, Stage 1." Businesses and Environmentalists Allied for Recycling (BEAR). 16 January 2002.


Last Updated on 6 May 2021.

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