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Container-deposit legislation (also known as a deposit-refund system, bottle bill, or deposit-return system) is any law that requires the collection of a monetary deposit on beverage containers (refillable or non-refillable) at the point of sale. When the container is returned to an authorized redemption center, or retailer 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, including, for example:
Deposits that are not redeemed are often kept by distributors or bottlers to cover the costs of the system (including handling fees paid to retailers or redemption enters to collect, sort, and handle the containers) or are escheated to the governmental entity involved to fund environmental programs.
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 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.
Smaller beer bottles (250 or 330 mL) carry a €0.10 deposit, and larger ones (750 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.
In 1970, British Columbia became the first Canadian province to establish a mandatory deposit-return system for soft drinks and beer containers. Today, nearly all provinces and territories in Canada have followed suit; the territory of Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has yet to implement some sort of deposit refund system.
Deposits range from CAD$0.05 to CAD$0.40 per unit depending on the material and size of the container and whether the container containers an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage.
Below is a brief summary of each program:
Since 2006, a refundable deposit of 0.5 HRK (Croatian Kuna) has been levied on non-refillable containers (except dairy products) with minimum volume of 200ml. Retailers over 200m2 are obliged to take-back containers. Collection is mostly manual, although some collection occurs with reverse vending machines. Retailers must sort containers by material type (PET bottles, aluminum/steel cans, and glass bottles). The scheme is government operated and there is a collection target of 95%. In 2015, the scheme recovered up to 90% of all non-refillable containers placed on the Croatian market.
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 a container deposit legislation. This law covers beer (alcohol content >0.5% by volume), carbonated soft drinks (alcohol content 0-0.5%), energy drinks, mineral water, iced tea, ready-to-drink beverages, and mixer products (alcohol content 0.5%-10%). Excluded from the program are fruit squash, juice, cocoa, wine and spirits, and milk. The deposit levels are as follows:
The deposit system operator is Dansk Retursystem A/S, a private non-profit organization. Most collection (95%) is done automatically using reverse vending machines, but some (5%) is done manually. In 2014, the system achieved a total return rate of 89%.
In Estonia there is a universal deposit and recycling system since 2005 for one-time and refillable containers. This includes soft drinks, water, beer, cider, juice, juice concentrates, nectars, and low-ethanol alcoholic beverages (up to 6% volume). It does not include strong alcoholic beverages such as wine or vodka, glass jars, or Tetra Paks. The deposit is €0.10 on all metal, plastic, and glass beverage containers of all sizes. The system is operated by Eesti Pandipakend OÜ, which is a producer responsibility organization representing the Estonian Association of Brewers, the Association of Producers of Soft Drinks, the Association of Importers of Soft Drinks and Beer, and the Estonian Retailers Association.
In 2015, 90% of all PET bottles, 70% of all aluminum cans and 87% of all glass bottles sold in Estonia were returned for recycling and/or reuse. The overall return rate was 82.3%.
The United Nations Development Programme had funded a feasibility study to look at the possibility of establishing a deposit-return system in Fiji, building on the experience gained from their successful projects in Kiribati and the Federated States of Micronesia.
In 2011, the Fijian Government approved the Environment Management [Waste Disposal and Recycling][Amendment] Regulations 2011, and the Environment Management [Container Deposit] Regulations 2011. The Regulations provide the legal framework for the introduction of a container deposit and refund system, allowing beverage producers and importers to adjust pricing and accommodate deposits. The Regulations will also allow the Department of Environment to register and establish the Managing Agency that will administer Fiji's container deposit system, and establish a revolving fund account to receive all deposits paid by producers for all beverages sold. No further details are available.
Deposits were introduced on aluminum cans in 1996, on PET bottles in 2008, and on glass bottles in 2012. Almost all soft drinks are covered by the program, in addition to water, beer, cider, long drinks, sport drinks, juice, and liquor/spirits/wine sold by Alko. Milk is exempt. The system is administered by Suomen palautuspakkaus Oy (abbr. Palpa), which is a private consortium of beverage importers and manufacturers. In 2016, aluminum cans were recovered at a rate of 96%, PET bottles 92%, and one-way glass 88%. The deposit values for these containers are as follows:
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 covers plastic, aluminum, and glass containers for water, beer, mixed drinks containing beer, carbonated/non-carbonated soft drinks, and mixed alcoholic drinks. Excluded from the program are containers for fruit and vegetable juice, milk products, wine, spirits, liquors, and certain dietary drinks. Also excluded are containers smaller than 100mL and larger than 3L. At any given time, an estimated 2 billion beer bottles are in circulation in Germany, each of which sees an average of 36 reuses.
As of October 2016, the standard deposit for all single-use containers (cans, single-use glass and plastic bottles) 0.1L-3L in volume is €0.25. Retailers are only obliged to take back the material fractions that they sell.
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.
Germany's collection system is 80% automated and 20% manual. Most supermarkets in Germany have a reverse vending machine that is designed to be used by customers and which scans "Pfand" returns and prints a receipt for the total value of the refund which can be exchanged for cash or put towards the cost of future 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 a deposit system on a national scale for a wide range of containers (plastic, aluminum, and glass) since 1989. All ready-to-drink beverages, wine, and liquor are included in the program. Milk, milk products, and juice extracts are excluded. The deposit is the same for all bottles and cans, ISK 16.
The recycling rate per product is approximately 90% aluminum, 87% PET, and 83% glass.
In Israel, there is a 0.30-shekel (₪) deposit on beverage containers over 100ml and under 5L, except for dairy products. The system is operated by the ELA Recycling Corporation, a private non-profit organization owned by Israel's beverage manufacturers. Businesses are required to accept bottles if they sold them, or if they are over 28 square meters and sell beverages from the same manufacturer or importer. Businesses are not required to accept more than 50 bottles per customer per day. The deposit was initially ₪0.25, but was raised shortly after the ₪0.05 coin was discontinued.
In 2015, the system achieved a total return rate of 77%.
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 container deposit legislation, as a monetary approach to the garbage/recycling problem, has never caught on in Japan. However, under increasingly ever stricter sorting rules announced by each town or city, garbage is meticuously sorted into kitchen garbage, newspapers/books, metal cans (washed)/plastic bottles (rinsed), garden weeds, etc. in each neighborhood for pickkup by collection cars, usually on different days notified by the local government. 
Lithuania implemented container deposit legislation for single-use cans and bottles in February 2016. Lithuania’s program is comprehensive and charges a deposit on nearly all types of beverage containers, including those made of plastic, metal, and glass 0.1L to 3L. The deposit is applicable to beer and beer cocktails; cider and other fermented beverages; mixed alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages; all types of water; juice and nectars (sold in glass, plastic, and metal packaging); and fruit wines and wine-product cocktails sold in plastic and metal packaging. Milk, wine, and spirits are exempt. The deposit is the same for all containers and is €0.10 per bottle/can, and most collection is done using reverse vending machines.
Lithuania’s deposit return system is operated by Užstato Sistemos Administratorius (USAD). Container return rates for plastic bottles were 34% before the deposit scheme, 74.3% at end of 2016, 91.9% at end of 2017, and 93% in 2018.
Under the current deposit-return scheme, large polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles greater than 0.5L are subject to a €0.25 deposit, but only those for soft drinks and water. All other beverage types, such as medical drinks, wine, spirits, etc., are excluded. The system, which is operated by Stichting Retourverpakkingen NL, is mostly automated collection (89%) with only 11% of returns being done manually. Beer bottles carry a €0.10 deposit, and beer crates €1.50.
In 2014, the Netherlands' deposit system recovered 95% of the containers covered by the program.
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[update] 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. Aluminum and steel beverage cans had a 5,60 kr surtax in Norway up until the end of the 20th century. In 1999, a container deposit legislation was passed, which also abolished this regulation. Today, these are the following container deposits in Norway:
In 2018 the rates were increased to 2 NOK (formerly 1 NOK) and 3 NOK (previously 2.50 NOK) due to inflation and the discontinuation of the 50-øre coin.
Infinitum AS (formerly Norsk Resirk A/S) is responsible for operating the national recycling scheme for non-refillable plastic bottles and beverage cans in Norway. The non-profit corporation was founded in 1999 and is owned by companies and organizations in the beverage industry and food trading.
The Norwegian system works in such a way that the excise tax decreases as the returns increases, meaning that for example that 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 2014, 95.4% of PET bottles and 96.6% of all drink cans in Norway were returned under the scheme.
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. As of 2016, drink containers can be returned and deposits retrieved at over 15,000 establishments in Norway. The collection system is 95% automated (using reverse vending machines) and only 5% manual. Most reverse vending machines in Norway are manufactured by Tomra Systems ASA.
In Sweden, there are deposits on nearly all ready-to-serve beverages, including beer, soft drinks, cider, and bottled water. Dairy products, vegetable juice, fruit juice, and berry drinks are excluded from the program. The deposit values are as follows:
AB Svenska Returpack (Pantamera) 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 not been 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.
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 2016, the overal recycling rate was 84.9% for both aluminum cans and PET bottles, which translates to 177 packages per person in Sweden.
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 England, in January 2017, ministers were reported to be considering a 10p or 20p refundable deposit on plastic bottles and containers after Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas had voiced her support of such a scheme at the end of 2016. As of February 2017, the idea of a plastic bottle levy was unlikely as the government rejected the deposit scheme proposal. In March 2018, the UK government announced plans to introduce a deposit return scheme in England for drinks containers.
As of June 2015, Northern Ireland had been considering a drinks deposit scheme, following the publication of a feasibility study for a deposit return scheme for drinks containers in Scotland. It has yet to implement such a scheme.
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. As of April 2017, a Holyrood motion supporting the idea of a small deposit on all drinks containers was signed by 66 MSPs, including member from every party. In May 2015, the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland (APRS) published Scottish polling which revealed overwhelming support for deposit-return. The figures showed that 78.8% of those who expressed a view supported this approach for Scotland, while just 8.5% opposed it. Several companies, most notably large drinks corporations like Coca-Cola, are known to have lobbied against the introduction of a national deposit scheme. Leaked documents reveal that in Europe, Coca Cola had identified deposit programs as a threat and they were planning to fight back. But in February 2017, the drinks company unexpectedly announced its support for a deposit-return program in Scotland, and in a statement to the Independent, Coca-Cola UK stated: "We have embarked on a major review of our sustainable packaging strategy to understand what role we can play in unlocking the full potential of a circular economy in Great Britain." On September 5, 2017, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that a deposit-system would be implemented as a means to tackle the rising tide of waste. No date has been set for implementation at this time. In the days of refillable milk bottles, such bottles were deposit-free.
As of March 2018, Welsh ministers are working on a plan to introduce a deposit return scheme.
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. Because of this, a new bottle bill has not been passed since 2005, and Delaware repealed its law in 2010 in favour of a non-refundable USD $0.04 tax per beverage container sold (Universal Recycling Law). Delaware's bottle bill was introduced in 1982 and had charged a $0.05 deposit on all beverage container (except aluminum) under 2 quarts.
There are currently 10 states that have container deposit laws:
States that formerly have can deposit regulation: