Bottle Bill Resource Guide

There are societal and environmental costs associated with the manufacturing, disposal, and recycling of beverage containers. The question for policymakers is “Who should pay these costs?” Is it fair to make the taxpayer who drinks nothing but tap water pay for processing beverage containers they never used? Under traditional municipal recycling programs, that is exactly what happens. Bottle bills, on the other hand, shift these costs to the beverage manufacturers and the people who consume beverages.

Industry opinions on producer responsibility

Several beverage and beverage-packaging industry leaders have expressed their support of bottle bills as a way to responsibly handle the waste their industries produce.

In 1980, Dwight Reed, President National Soft Drink Association made the following statement:  

“Society is telling us in unmistakable terms that we share equally with the public the responsibility for package retrieval and disposal...This industry has spent hundreds of millions of dollars... in the attempt to dispute, deflect, or evade that message. It is interesting to speculate on the state of our public image, and our political fortunes, had that same sum been devoted to disposal or retrieval technology.”

In a 2006 position statement, the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers announced their support for expanding existing bottle bills to include noncarbonated beverages, saying, "Recycling all Non-Carbonated Bottles will increase recycling rates for municipalities and generate the volume, consistency and quality of supply required by the plastics recycling industry."

In November 2008 the Aluminum Association announced its goal to increase the recycling rate of beverage cans to 75% by 2015 saying, “Container deposit programs are a proven, sustainable method of capturing beverage cans for recycling.  States that have deposit programs have the highest can recycling rates, on average at 74% or higher, while the recycling rate in non-deposits states is around 38%.”

In December 2008, the Glass Packaging Institute announced its goal to use 50% recycled glass by 2015, saying glass manufacturers “will continue to work with policymakers to improve and expand state beverage deposit programs.”

Government opinions

During his term as governor of New York, George Pataki explained an important benefit of his state's Returnable Container Act (RCA) “…it has internalized the cost of solid waste management for beverage containers covered by the RCA…Therefore the taxpayer does not have to subsidize the disposal of empty beverage containers.”

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View the PowerPoint presentation instead. Container Deposit Legislation: Past, Present, Future provides a quick look at the most important facts about bottle bills. This presentation is also a great tool for activists needing to present information in support of a bottle bill.