Bottle Bill Resource Guide

There is currently no nation-wide bottle bill implemented in the United States as of March 2021. However, there have been multiple efforts to pass such legislation, and there are two pieces of legislation up for consideration in the US Congress that would implement a national beverage container program: The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act, and The CLEAN Future Act.

The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act

Name 

S.984 - A bill to amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to reduce the production and use of certain single-use plastic products and packaging, to improve the responsibility of producers in the design, collection, reuse, recycling, and disposal of their consumer products and packaging, to prevent pollution from consumer products and packaging from entering into animal and human food chains and waterways, and for other purposes.

Also known as: The Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2021 (amended to The Solid Waste Disposal Act, or 42 7 U.S.C. 6901 et seq.)

Date Introduced 25 March 2021
Beverages Covered
  • Sparkling and non-sparkling water (including mineral water)
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Tea and coffee
  • Fruit juices (including coconut water)
  • Yogurt and probiotic drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Wines, wine coolers, and hard ciders
  • Liquor
  • Beer and malt beverages
Containers Covered

Containers  ≤3L made of the following materials:

  • Glass 
  • Plastic
  • Metal
Beverages Not Covered
  • Infant formula
  • Meal replacements
Containers Not Covered
  • Cartons
  • Pouches
  • Aseptic containers
Amount of Deposit

10¢ USD

Reclamation System Return to retail or to redemption centers
Handling Fee TBD
Other Fees TBD
Unredeemed Deposits Kept by producers/distributors
Complementary Recycling Programs

There are local and statewide recycling programs, including curbside recycling. Ten states and one territory already have an existing bottle deposit program available.

 

Details

In the United States, there is no national bottle deposit scheme; ten states, and Guam, have implemented their own bottle deposit program instead.  In 2003, US Senator Jim Jeffords tried to introduce a national bottle bill with the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act. This bill ultimately failed to pass. [1] In February 2020, US House Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA) introduced Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020 which laid out various guidelines for national waste management systems and regulations in the US, including the implementation of a national bottle container program. [2] This legislation ultimately did not get past the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment.

For the 117th Congress, Representative Lowenthal and Senator Jeff Merkley (OR) introduced a new version of this act, the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act on 25 March 2020. The bill is an omnibus bill that encompasses many different topics for better waste management and plastic reduction nationwide, including implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy; a national standardization of recycling and composting; an imposition of a plastic bag fee; actions relating to the reduction of plastic and microplastic pollution; instating minimum recycled content requirements; and the implementation of a national beverage container deposit program.

The proposed deposit program would implement a 10¢ USD deposit on all eligible containers, subject to inflation and other factors. Consumers would be able to return their eligible containers at retailers and licensed redemption centers. Unclaimed refunds will be retained by beverage producers to "supplement investments in nationwide collection and recycling infrastructure." [3] States which have already passed a comprehensive bottle bill prior to its passing, or states which will pass similar bottle bill legislation, may comply through their legislation instead. 

At its introduction, S.984 was endorsed by over 400 environmental advocacy groups and organizations which wrote in support of the Act, including the National Audobon Society, the Sierra Club, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). [4] Such a program would foster and move container waste and recycling towards a circular economy, raising both national and state-level recycling rates.

 

The CLEAN Future Act

Name 

H.R.1512 - To build a clean and prosperous future by addressing the climate crisis, protecting the health and welfare of all Americans, and putting the Nation on the path to a net-zero greenhouse gas economy by 2050, and for other purposes.

Also known as: Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act

Date Introduced 2 March 2021
Beverages Covered
  • Sparkling and non-sparkling water
  • Mineral and soda water (flavored and unflavored)
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Tea and coffee
  • Fruit juices (including coconut water)
  • Dairy and dairy alternatives
  • Yogurt and probiotic drinks
  • Energy drinks
  • Sports drinks
  • Kombucha
  • Wines, wine coolers, and hard ciders
  • Liquor
  • Beer and malt beverages
  • Beverages containing hemp or marijuana
Containers Covered

Containers  ≤3L made of the following materials:

  • Glass 
  • Plastic
  • Metal
Beverages Not Covered
  • Infant formula
  • Meal and caloric replacements
  • Liquid drugs (as regulated by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act)
Containers Not Covered
  • Cartons
  • Foil pouches
  • Drink boxes
Amount of Deposit

10¢ USD

Reclamation System Return to retail or to redemption centers
Handling Fee TBD
Other Fees TBD
Unredeemed Deposits Kept by system administrator

 

Details

On 2 March 2020, The Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act, was introduced by US House Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ), US House Representative Paul Tonko (NY), and US House Representative Bobby L. Rush (IL). It was formed in the Energy and Commerce Committee as a result of the last two years' worth of hearings regarding to climate crisis. [5]

The bill encompasses many different regulations and set goals for the US, including: national pollution goals and emissions standards; increased dam safety measures; federal electricity regulatory reform; infrastructure modernization and improvement; and improved waste management and collection. This bill would also amend the Solid Waste Disposal Act to implement a federal bottle bill program. It would also conduct studies to determine the efficacy and implementation of such a program. Under this bill, unredeemed deposits go back towards the designated system administrator.

Footnotes

[1] S.1867 - National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2003. 108th Congress (2003-2004).

[2] H.R.5845 - Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act of 2020. 116th Congress (2019-2020).

[3] "Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act: Overview." Offices of U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal. 2021.

[4] "Letter of Support for the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act of 2021." [PDF]

[5] "E&C LEADERS INTRODUCE THE CLEAN FUTURE ACT, COMPREHENSIVE LEGISLATION TO COMBAT THE CLIMATE CRISIS."  House oCommittee on Energy & Commerce. 2 March 2020.

 

Last Updated on 24 March 2021.