Container deposit legislation
Container-deposit legislation is any law that requires collection of a monetary deposit on soft-drink, juice, milk, water, alcoholic-beverage, and/or other reusable packaging at the point of sale. When the container is returned to an authorized redemption center, or to the original seller in some jurisdictions, the deposit is partly or fully refunded to the redeemer (presumed to be the original purchaser). It is a deposit-refund system.
Governments may pass container deposit legislation for several reasons:
- To encourage recycling and complement existing curbside recycling programs, to reduce energy and material usage for containers
- To specifically reduce beverage container litter along highways, in lakes and rivers, and on other public or private properties (where beverage container litter occurs, a nominal deposit provides an economic incentive to clean it up; this is in fact a significant source of income to some poor individuals and non-profit civic organizations)
- To discourage the purchase of the products by raising their initial price,
- To extend the usable lifetime of taxpayer-supported community or regional landfills, and
- To protect children and animals by reducing the likelihood of glass lacerations.
- To not depend on commercial entities for recycling. The commercial interests can oppose the recycling for various reasons, although they may have an incentive to reduce the packaging cost, and voluntarily, e.g., by competition, introduce a refund for recycled containers. And the refund policy may be less than just, e.g., no refund without new purchase.
Deposits that are not redeemed are often used (escheated) by the governmental entity involved to fund environmental programs; sometimes they are used to cover the costs of processing returned containers.
A & R Thwaites & Co in Dublin, Ireland, announced in 1799 the provision of artificial "soda water" and that they paid 2 shillings a dozen for returned bottles. Schweppes that also was in the business of artificially made mineral waters, had a similar recycling policy about 1800, without any legislation. Scottish bottled beverage companies also voluntarily introduced such a scheme to encourage the return of their bottles for reuse. In Sweden a standard system for deposits on bottles and recycling was established in 1884, eventually by law. The popular demand for a deposit on aluminium cans to reduce littering led to legislation in 1984.
In North America, British Columbia's legislated deposit-return system, enacted in 1970, is the oldest such program in North America.
Container-deposit legislation by country
In the days when bottles were washed and re-used, drinks manufacturers paid for the return of their (proprietary) containers, but with the advent of single-use containers great savings were possible, leaving their disposal as the consumer's responsibility.
While a national scheme has been repeatedly delayed largely due to unveiled threats from the beverage industry of multimillion-dollar ad campaigns against politicians who support it and disagreements between the states, there has been a growing momentum of state-based operated container deposit schemes (CDS). Currently all states except Victoria and Tasmania look to have some sort of state-based container deposit scheme operating within the next 2 years. With 8 billion beverage containers landfilled or littered every year in Australia, proponents argue that it is the most effective method to reduce such litter; and improve recycling above that achieved by kerbside. It also has many co-benefits such as funds for charities and several thousand new jobs, that cannot be achieved by other approaches.
- The state of South Australia has a refund of 10 cents per drinks carton, can or bottle (only containers marked as eligible for refund; does not include wine & spirits bottles, milk cartons). This has been in place since the 1970s.
- Northern Territory introduced one in 2012, however after a challenge by Coca-Cola Amatil in the Federal Court of Australia, on March 4, 2013, this ended temporarily until the Northern Territory government stepped in to keep the scheme going until such time as an exemption to the Mutual Recognition Act (the basis of Coca-Cola Amatil's court challenge) could be secured. This exemption was secured on August 7, 2013, making the container deposit legislation effective once again and this time permanent.
- The state of New South Wales has announced the start date of a state based scheme commencing in July 2017.
- The Queensland government in February 2015 indicated its strong support for a scheme in Queensland potentially in partnership with New South Wales for implementation in 2017-2018. Container deposit legislation is supported by 85% of Australians. Eventually the The Queensland government on July 22, 2016 announced that that state will have a container deposit scheme purportedly to get drink cans and bottles off beaches and out of parks and public areas. The government confirmed that the initiative will start in 2018.
- The state of Western Australia has announced the start date of a state-based scheme commencing in 2018.
Smaller beer bottles (25 or 33 ml) carry a €0.10 deposit, and larger ones (75 ml or 1 l) a €0.20 one. Some fruit-juice bottles, such as those sold by Oxfam Wereldwinkels/Magasins du Monde], carry a €0.30 deposit. Some hard plastic milk bottles such as those sold by Delhaize carry a €0.20 deposit.
The Canadian provinces and two of the territories have their own deposit refund systems (the territory of Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada with no deposit refund system in place). Deposits range from 5 cents (¢) to 40¢ per unit depending on the material and size of the container and whether the beverage originally contained within is alcoholic or non-alcoholic.
Ontario's system of deposit refunds for beer bottles, through "The Beer Store" (The Beer Store is owned by three international brewers: Labatt, Molson and Sleeman), has close to a 100% return rate. The bottles can be cleaned and reused 15 to 20 times. Effective February 5, 2007, Ontario's container deposit applies to wine and spirit, in addition to beer containers. However, even though spirits may only be purchased at government run stores (LCBO) and wine may only be purchased there and at specialty wine shops and directly from wineries, these bottles may only be returned for deposit refund at The Beer Store and are recycled, not reused. Ontario's system does not extend to non-alcoholic beverages.
The programs in other provinces:
- Manitoba: only beer containers are charged a deposit (10¢). Other non-dairy containers are charged a non-refundable 2¢ per unit levy and may be recycled in municipal curbside recycling programs.
- Quebec: beer and carbonated soft drink containers are charged deposits (5¢–20¢ depending on the size, material and content of the container)
- Alberta: all beverage containers (glass bottles, metallic cans, TetraPaks, gable-top cartons, bags-in-boxes, plastic bottles and jugs, drink pouches), including milk containers, are charged deposits at the point of sale; 10¢ for containers 1 L or less, 25¢ for containers larger than 1 L.
- All other provinces charge deposits on beverage containers, except for milk and other dairy products
In Croatia a deposit of 50 lipa was placed in 2006 on non-reusable containers with minimum volume of 200 mL. Plastic or metal containers with a sign are taken back in supermarkets and shops either by human staff or by reverse vending machinery.
In the Czech Republic most beer is sold in returnable glass bottles that carry a CZK 3 deposit. These bottles are collected by shops and supermarkets. Reverse vending machines have mostly replaced human staff. There is also a CZK 100 deposit on plastic beer crates with a 20 bottle capacity. Most reverse vending machines accept an entire crate full of empty bottles, returning CZK 160. There is no deposit on other containers.
In Denmark the selling of aluminium beverage cans was forbidden between 1982 and 2002. However this regulation violated European Union law. Therefore, the EU forced Denmark to replace it, and the new legislation, passed in 2002, was in fact a container deposit legislation. It established the following container deposits:
- Refillable glass bottles up to and incl. 0.5 L: 1 krone
- Refillable glass bottles over 0.5 L: 3 kr.
- Cans and glass bottles under 1 L: 1 kr.
- Plastic bottles under 1 L: 1.50 kr.
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles of 1 L and over: 3 kr.
In Estonia there is a universal deposit and recycling system since 2005 for one-time and refillable containers. In 2012, 90% of all PET bottles, 63% of all aluminium cans and 86% of all glass bottles sold in Estonia were returned into the deposit and recycling system. About the somewhat lower can and glass bottle return rates it must be noted that due to so-called "alcohol tourism" a remarkable number of beer cans and bottles are taken to neighbouring Finland and are not returned to Estonia. The donation buttons on vending machines which give your deposit amount to the charity organization were introduced in 2011. By the end of 2012, 49% of all vending machines had donation buttons. All of the deposits are €0.10 per bottle/can.
The deposits are:
- (A) PET bottle ≤ 0.5 L: €0.10
- (B) PET bottle > 0.5 L: €0.10
- (C) Aluminium can (all sizes): €0.10
- (D) Glass bottle (all sizes): €0.10
- (D KORDUKASUTATAV) Refillable glass bottle (all sizes): €0.10
Recycling first started in 1952 with the Coca-Cola bottles and refillable plastic bottles became recyclable in the 1980s. Deposits on aluminum cans were introduced in 1996 and on PET bottles in 2008. The recycling is administered by Suomen palautuspakkaus Oy (abbr. Palpa), which is a private consortium of beverage importers and fabricators. Glass bottles have almost 100% recycling and are refilled 33 times on average. Aluminium cans have a recycling rate of about 94% and PET bottles 92% (2010), deemed to be top statistics internationally.
- Aluminium cans: €0.15
- 0.33 L glass bottle: €0.10
- Bottles of wine and liquors: €0.10
- 0.33 L non-refillable PET bottle: €0.10
- 0.50 L non-refillable PET bottle: €0.20
- 1.50 L non-refillable PET bottle: €0.40
- 2 L non-refillable PET bottle: €0.40
- 3 L non-refillable PET bottle €0.40
The scheme is, in technical sense, voluntary and Palpa does not hold a legal monopoly for container deposits systems. However, it is the only such system in operation. Those beverage containers that do not belong to a container deposit system are levied an excise tax of €0.51/L, regardless of the container size. The tax is so high that essentially all beverage manufacturers and importers opt to join the Palpa system instead of paying the excise tax.
In Germany container deposit legislation, known as Einwegpfand (single-use deposit), was passed in 2002, and was implemented on 1 January 2003. However, its implementation was fought by lobby groups of German bottling industry and retailers. This fight also included trials at the Federal Administrative Court of Germany and the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, but all trials were won by the German federal government. The deposit legislation does not cover containers for fruit juice, milk-products, wine, spirits, liquors, and certain dietary drinks.
As of 2010, the standard deposit for all single-use containers (cans, single-use glass and plastic bottles) is €0.25. Shops accept return only of single-use containers which have the same material as sold.
The deposit for refillable bottles is not defined by law. The usual rates are locally €0.02 for some wine bottles, €0.08 for beer bottles up to 0.5 L, and €0.15 for beer bottles with flip-top closures, beer bottles over 0.5 L and other bottles (mostly water and soft-drinks, lesser fruit drinks, milk, cream, yoghurt). Some bottles have an even higher deposit. Bottle crates have a deposit of €1.50. Shops only accept bottles of sold vendors and sizes.
Most supermarkets in Germany have a reverse vending machine designed to be used by customers which scans "Pfand" returns and prints a receipt to the total value of the items given which can in turn be exchanged for cash or used against the value of ones next purchases.
Supermarkets near the Danish border have established a scheme, where Scandinavian residents are exempt from "Pfand", by signing an "Export declaration" and providing that cans are exported within 24 hours and the contents are not consumed within Germany.
In Hungary, beer, wine and standardized liquor bottles carry a deposit on them, which was liberalized in the recent past. Beer bottles have 25 forints on them, but for wine glasses and for liquor bottles, the sum is decided by the trader, which people can exploit by buying a drink in a certain retailer and bringing the bottle back to its rival who have a bigger deposit on it. PET bottles and metal beverage containers are taken back only by some super- and hypermarkets, such as Lidl, Auchan, Tesco, Interspar. They all use reverse vending machines to collect them: for bottles and in most places for the PET bottles they use a Wincor-Nixdorf or a Tomra machine, while ALU cans are collected by the Hungarian ALU-press machine. Its advantage is that it accepts flattened or pressed cans as well, and it crushes them with a pressing machine, thus improving the storage capacity of the machine. The containers' prices - 2 forints/ALU can and 1 forint/PET bottle - do not widely motivate people to revend these containers.
Iceland has had deposit system on a national scale for a wide range of containers since 1989.
- The deposit is same for all bottles and cans: 15.00 króna.
The historical recycling rate per product is approximately 90% aluminum, 87% PET and 82% glass.
In Israel, there is a 0.30-shekel (₪) deposit on beverage containers from 101 to 1499 mL, except for dairy products. Businesses are required to accept bottles if they sold them, or if they are larger than a certain size (28 square meters at least) and sell beverages from the same manufacturer or importer. Businesses are not required to accept more than 50 bottles per customer. The deposit was ₪0.25, but was raised shortly after the ₪0.05 coin was discontinued.
Most 500 mL beer bottles (local brands such as Goldstar and Maccabee plus certain imported ones like Carlsberg and Tuborg) have a deposit of ₪1.20, and are willingly accepted even by smaller businesses (plastic water bottles, glass wine bottles and soda cans are mostly accepted by larger supermarket chains, some of which possess reverse vending machines).
The deposits are:
- (A) PET bottle ≤ 0.5 L: €0.10,
- (B) PET bottle > 0.5 L: €0.10,
- (C) Aluminium can (all sizes): €0.10,
- (D) Glass bottle (all sizes): €0.10.
Large polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda bottles carry a €0.25 deposit. Discussions about this deposit are ongoing in Dutch politics. The deposit might be lifted in 2015 but some political parties on the other hand want to extend the system. Beer bottles carry a €0.10 deposit, and beer crates €1.50.
New Zealand had no container-deposit legislation until 2008 when the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 passed into law. The Act has provision for product stewardship of which container-deposit legislation is the most familiar type. As of 2010 there is no widespread deposits available on containers with some beer bottles being a notable exception.
Automated recycling of bottles has been in use since the 1970s. Similar to Denmark, the selling of aluminium beverage cans was forbidden in Norway up until the end of the 20th century. In 1999, a container deposit legislation was passed, which also abolished this regulation. Today, there are the following container deposits in Norway:
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles up to 0.5 L: 1.00 krone
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles over 0.5 L: 2.50 kr
- Bottle crates are also reverse vended.
Norsk Resirk is the non-profit system founded 3 May 1999 and co-owned by various organisations in trade and industry that handles the depositing and recycling non-refillable plastic bottles and beverage cans in Norway. The Norwegian system works in such a way that the excise tax decreases as the returns increases, meaning that for example 90 per cent returns for cans translates into a 90 per cent discount on the excise tax. This again allows drink products to be sold at lower prices.
In 2005, 93% of all recyclable bottles and 80% of all drink cans in Norway returned into the deposit and recycling system. That year also saw 280 million krone in deposits being paid for the return of 194 million cans and 49 million bottles.
Deposits on drink containers have a long history in Norway, starting with deposits on beer bottles in 1902. The deposit back then was 0.06 kr (3.30 kr in 2006 currency value). This deposit arrangement was later expanded to include soft drink bottles.
Up until 1 January 2001, the Vinmonopolet government wine and spirits monopoly chain had deposits on products made by the company itself, this did not include imported products.
All sellers of deposit marked drinking containers are required by law to accept returns of empty containers for cash. Today drink containers can be returned and deposits retrieved at over 9,000 establishments in Norway, and there are almost 3,000 reverse vending machines where drink containers can be exchanged for receipts that can be cashed in at the counter. Most reverse vending machines in Norway are manufactured by Tomra Systems ASA.
In Sweden, there are deposits on nearly all containers for consumption-ready beverages. Of the aluminium cans and PET bottles affected by the deposit that are sold, 91% and 84% are returned respectively. The return rates for the two glass bottle types are 99% and 90% respectively.
AB Svenska Returpack is responsible for the deposit system for aluminium cans and PET bottles. The aluminum cans have had a deposit since 1984, and PET bottles since 1994. Svensk GlasÅtervinning AB is responsible for the deposit system of glass bottles. A glass bottle recycling system was introduced in 1884 and the bottles were first standardized in 1885.
Until 1998, the hard alcohol and wine bottles sold at Systembolaget — the government owned alcohol retail monopoly — had a deposit as well, but due to the deregulation of the Systembolaget's suppliers, the former sole supplier V&S Group dropped the deposit on their bottles due to the restricted bottle shapes giving V&S a disadvantage compared to the competitors. The bottles could be returned and deposit refunded until early 1999 at Systembolaget.
The legislation regarding container deposit systems was updated so that from January 1, 2006, containers from other plastics and metals, e.g., steel cans, can be included in the deposit systems. The law also makes it illegal in Sweden to sell consumption-ready beverages in containers that are not part of an authorized Swedish container deposit system, with the exception of beverages that mainly consist of dairy products or vegetable, fruit, or berry juice. However, private importation from (mainly Eastern European) countries without deposit occurs by vendors that thus compete with a somewhat lower customer price. The recycling of these contraband cans has been low as seen as a problem, but Returpack made a campaign in 2010 offering 0.10 krona for each imported can (without deposit) to the benefit of WWF, retrieving 17 million cans. In 2011, a similar campaign was repeated, retrieving almost 18 million cans. Non-deposit glass containers are collected in large glass garbage bins, for clear or coloured glass, placed centrally in most urban areas.
- Cans: 0.89 krona (marked on label as 1 kr)
- PET bottles up to 1 L: 0.89 kr (marked on label as 1 kr)
- PET bottles over 1 L: 1.79 kr (marked on label as 2 kr)
- 0.33 L glass bottle: 0.60 kr
- 0.50 L glass bottle: 0.90 kr
- ≤ 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 1.00 kr
- > 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 2.00 kr
The 1.5 L refillable PET bottle with a deposit of 4.00 kr has been discontinued, and has been replaced by the 1.5 L non-refillable PET bottle. The last day for returning bottles made by Spendrups for deposit was 30 June 2007, and the last day for bottles made by Coca-Cola Sweden was 30 June 2008.
Although Sweden is one of the leading countries in recycling of beverage containters, Returpack uses TV commercials to promote more recycling. Commercials have been made with well-known melodies sung, like "Guantanamera" and "Pata pata"—sounding like Returpack's slogan "panta mera" (i.e., "recycle more").
In Switzerland, there is a government ruling that 75% of containers must be returned, otherwise a deposit system may be introduced.
Until the turn of the 21st century, most British bottled beer was sold (whether in off-licences or pubs) in standard quart, pint, half-pint or third-pint (nip) bottles, although some brewers preferred their own distinctive designs. The standard deposit was 7pence (p) for a pint bottle and 5p for a half-pint. However, in the absence of legislation, and given the switch from pub to supermarket sales, and from Imperial to metric measures, the industry has now entirely abandoned refillable bottles.
Beer casks sold for the home or party consumption of draught beer are usually also loaned out against a deposit which may run to several tens of pounds.
In Scotland, some Barr products in 750 mL glass bottles, had a 30p container deposit although this was discontinued in August 2015. Some Tesco stores have reverse vending machines which pay ½p per aluminium can (equivalent value in Tesco Clubcard Points). Furthermore, the landmark Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 passed by the Scottish Parliament contains within it powers for Scottish ministers to implement a national scheme. Several private companies are known to have lobbied against the introduction of a national deposit scheme.
In the days of refillable milk bottles, such bottles were deposit-free.
Efforts to pass container deposit legislation in the 39 states that do not have them are often politically contentious. The U.S. beverage container industry—including both the bottlers of water, soda, beer, and the corporate owners of grocery stores and convenience stores—often spends large amounts of money lobbying against the introduction of both new and amended beverage container deposit legislation.
States that have a can deposit regulation:
- California (5 cents (¢), 10¢ for bottles above 24 fl oz [almost 710 mL]), introduced 1987, 25% raise in 2007
- Connecticut (5¢), introduced 1980
- Hawaii (5¢), introduced 2005
- Iowa (5¢, incl. wine bottles), introduced 1979
- Maine (5¢, 15¢ for most liquor and wine bottles), introduced 1978
- Massachusetts (5¢), introduced 1983
- Michigan (10¢), introduced 1978
- New York (5¢), introduced 1982
- Oregon (5¢), introduced 1972
- Vermont (5¢, 15 ¢US$ for most liquor bottles), introduced 1973
States that formerly have can deposit regulation:
- Delaware (5¢), introduced 1982, abolished 2009, replaced by Universal Recycling law.
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