Research Paper on Container Deposit Laws

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1720 Words
Date:  2022-08-05

History of Container Deposit Laws

For decades, civilians in the United States drank soda and beer from refillable glass bottles which could be re-used several times before it was finally discarded. By the advent of 1930, the beverage companies came up with the steel beverage can which at the time was revolutionizing the beverage industry. Unbelievably the beverage consumers were encouraged to use the bottle and discard it whenever they want and wherever they were. This sequence did not stop. But it was not until after the WWII that there was a boom in the production of beverage drinks and beer in disposable cans. As of 1960, approximately 47 percent of all the beer that was sold in the U.S. was packed in disposable cans and one-way user bottles. Soft drinks did, however, change its mode of production for a while as they retained the refillable glass bottles but one would have to pay a deposit. In the 1960s the share of cans was about 5 percent (Reuell, 2008). With the gradual demise of the refillable glass bottles and the taking over of the one-way no deposit cans resulted in the overflow of litter resulting from the beverage containers. This saw the rise of environmentalists who cried foul of the ever-growing litter heaps from the beverage containers. The environmentalists proposed a bill to their state legislatures that would compel the beer and soft drinks manufacturers to pay a non-refundable fee for the containers they use in packaging their beverages.

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In 1953 Vermont became the first state to pass a bill that was seeking to ban all the non-refillable beer and other drink bottles due to the rising litter problem at the time. This bill however only lasted for four years given the massive lobbying by the then massive beer industry. By 1971, Oregon became the first state to pass the first bottle bill which required that companies should deposit five cents for every bottle that was going into the market to subsidize on the environmental conservation efforts. In 1973, Vermont followed by implementing the same bill as Oregon imposing a five cents charge on all the bottles that entered the market. By the end of 1986, at least 10 states had passed bills regulating the bottles and cans (Mooallem, 2007). The bottle bills were specifically for one purpose, to conserve the natural environment through bottle and container recycling and these became successful. Because of these legislations, the early 1990s had seven states recording a reduction in the amount of litter by about 30 to 47 percent while the reduction of beverage container litter ranging at about 80percent (Mooallem, 2007). To date, the law that regulates these beverage containers still charges a deposit fee for beverage containers.

Container Deposit Law

The container deposit law is the law that requires the mandatory collection of a monetary deposit on all beverage containers during a sale. The customer gets their refund back when they return the bottle back to the point of sale. The government passed the container deposit law to encourage container recycling, to reduce the amount of litter as a result of the beverage containers and cans, and to extend the of the landfills. The idea behind the container deposit law was to enable recycling of the bottles. The system works as follows. When a retailer buys the packed beverage for the wholesaler or the distributor, the distributor is the one who receives the deposit for every piece of a can that the retailer has purchased. When the consumer purchases the beverage from the retailer at the point of the dale, they pay a deposit to the retailer (Reuell, 2008). Every container has its deposit. When the consumer is through with the drink and decides to return the container back to the retailer, the amount paid in deposit during the purchase is refunded back through a reverse vending machine. The retailer then takes some time to recoup all the bottles plus a small handling fee of not more than 3 cents and then takes back to the distributor who also refund the retailer for every piece that is returned.

The distributors and the bottlers, however, gain from either selling the bottles as scrap to the recyclers or earning from the profit generated by the investment on the deposits initially paid by the distributors and also the amount remaining for the bottles that were not recouped. The unclaimed deposits and also the unredeemed deposits become the gain of the distributor which amount to up to millions of dollars per year (Crosby & Taylor, 1982). In short, these deposit laws provide a mechanism through which the beverage containers can be recouped to undergo recycling once the users are through with them. This framework creates a self-funded program for the beverage bottles making the process easy to manage without involving external influences like the government and other agencies.

Bottle bill expansion. According to proponents, lack of deposit laws on these containers has made them the major pollutants and wastes in the landfills. The water bottles and non-carbonated beverage containers contribute to approximately one-third of all the beverage container which means they have the same littering capacity as does the containers for carbonated drinks. The proponents insist that by introducing the deposit fee on these containers will ensure that consumers keep millions of containers which end up in trash cans and into the landfills. Reducing the amount of this container also has a significant effect as it will reduce the cost of collecting by the local trash collectors. In legislation that was introduced in 2008, there is enough reason to expand the bottle bill so as to include the containers for non-carbonated drinks including water bottles (Reuell, 2008).

The bill proposes 10 cents as the fee that is chargeable for these containers thus the Gatorade and other non-carbonated drinks' containers will end up in the recycling process as opposed to the current system where they end up in the landfills and in the streets like trash. These proposal has seen massive support by the local officials and national leaders inclusive. This is what Mazzucchelli said of non-carbonated drink bottles "I would say it's a very high number that gets thrown in the rubbish and does not get recycled," He also went on to reiterate about water bottles, "I think it does add up. I think it would be a significant amount, not only in tonnage but also in bulk." The leader said that by so doing, the town would save the money otherwise used in the collection and incineration. According to reports, it costs $68 to incinerate a ton of garbage, which means by reducing the amount of trash, the town will not have to pay for hundreds of tons as a result of the containers (Reuell, 2008).

The amount of money that is thrown away in the form of unredeemable water bottles and non-carbonated drink containers is a staggering $1.3 billion. By reducing the number of wastes as a result of these bottle by even a quarter of the fraction would save most towns in thousands of money otherwise used in collection and incineration. According to Betty McLaughlin, "Nobody is saying let's have a deposit on everything, and bring it all back to the grocery store. But the sheer volume is considerable." By adding juice, water, and other non-carbonated drinks to the bottle bill, there will be a huge reduction in the amount of plastic, aluminum and glass that will be kept out of the landfills and the costly incinerators thus allowing the local authorities and the towns to run other items such as papers and non-beverage containers in addition to smaller recycling plants (Reuell, 2008).

Opposition to bottle bill expansion. There are those who oppose to these proposals, one of them being Chris Flynn the president of the Massachusetts food foundation. His sentiments concerning the water bill are that "The bottle law is an archaic approach, it is a costly approach and it is diverting attention from comprehensive recycling." According to Flynn and his MFA lobbyists, there was no comprehensive recycling program when this law took effect. They believe that the bill as it is now is an impediment to the recycling process. Rather than its expansion to include water and non-carbonated drinks bottles, Flynn suggests that the entire law should be done away with completely. Furthermore, those opposing the bottle bill have raised concerns over the cost of production stating that "Why does that carbonated beverage have to be dragged back to the food store for three times the cost?" Flynn maintains that there is a need for a hold to have the whole bill to go through a revisiting phase and to establish a clear process for dealing with the litter (Reuell, 2008).


My position is to expand the bill to include the deposit of water and non-carbonated drinks containers. From the beginning, the laws was introduced to specifically ease the recycling process and to reduce the amount of litter in the landfills. However, when the water bill was passed, there was no oversight of these other containers, but with their introduction into the beverage industry, there has been a problem both in the littering and in the recycling process. My proposal is informed by the adverse effects that these container have on the environment and the cost of maintaining the sanitation of the environment. First, the towns are footing a huge cost as a result of increased tonnage of annual litter that undergoes incineration. Second, the management of these litter bins has increased as the litter collecting agencies costs have increased given the amount of work and the size of litter they collect compared to earlier days. Third, the impact these containers have on the taxpayer maintained landfills. There has been an increase in the amount of litter going to the landfills thus an environmental hazard since most of the containers are made from plastic which is non-biodegradable. I, therefore, support the expansion of the bottle bill to introduce a deposit on the non-carbonated drinks containers.


Crosby, L., & Taylor, J. (1982). Consumer Satisfaction with Michigan's Container Deposit Law: An Ecological Perspective. Journal Of Marketing, 46(1), 47.

Mooallem, J. (2007). Bottled Water - Recycling - Plastics - Waste and Pollution - Beverages. Retrieved from

Reuell, P. (2008). News - MA - Expanding deposit to non-carbonated beverages could help recycling. Retrieved from

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Research Paper on Container Deposit Laws. (2022, Aug 05). Retrieved from

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