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 containers 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).
Governments may pass container deposit legislation for several reasons:
- to encourage recycling and complement existing curbside recycling programs
- 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 extend the usable lifetime of taxpayer-supported community or regional landfills, and;
- to protect children by reducing the likelihood of glass lacerations.
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.
Container-deposit legislation by country
The state of South Australia currently has a refund of 10 cents per can or bottle (raised from 5 cents in late 2008). In the 1970s deposits ranged from 20c for a 30 oz bottle and 10c for a 10 oz and 6½ oz bottle. With the introduction of plastic and non re-usable bottles the deposit was reduced to 5c (including aluminium cans). This amount remained unchanged for around thirty years.
A recent innovation has seen the deposit extended to paper cartons e.g. flavoured milk and orange juice. The Environment Protection Act 1993 (SA) governs the levying and refund of deposits. The value of deposits and the scope of their application have been influenced by the Australian federal constitution's guarantee of free trade between the states. The defining case in this issue was the attempt to introduce a differential between re-usable and re-cyclable bottle deposits. The issue was taken to the High Court of Australia - Castlemaine Tooheys Ltd v South Australia.
Around 600 people are employed in the recovery of bottles in South Australia. Groups such as the Scouts operate container refund depots. While there are professional collectors who collect on an arranged basis from particular venues (e.g. pubs and restaurants), usually operating small trucks for the job, there are also many socially marginalised collectors who forage in refuse bins etc. for discarded deposit bottles; these collectors often travel by bicycle, sometimes with relatively elaborate and inventive modifications to allow them to carry the bulky loads of bottles they find.
Victoria had a scheme, but it was rescinded. In 2009, such a scheme was reintroduced, but then after the Victorian Greens bill for a 10c deposit scheme was passed in State Government, it was again rescinded.
The Northern Territory is set to introduce a container deposit scheme like South Australia's from late 2011.
A national scheme has also been proposed. Attempts to introduce similar legislation in other states have been unsuccessful to date.
Many provinces in Canada have deposit refund systems in place for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverage containers: glass, plastic, aluminum, and tetrapak containers have deposit requirements in various provinces. Deposits range from 5¢ to 40¢ per unit.
Ontario's system of deposit refunds for beer bottles, through "The Beer Store" (The Beer Store is owned by three Ontario 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.
In 2011 the Fijian Cabinet approved the Environment Management [Waste Disposal and Recycling] [Amendment] Regulations 2011, and the Environment Management [Container Deposit] Regulations 2011.
In Germany container deposit legislation, known as Pfand or 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, wine, spirits, liquors, and certain dietary drinks.
Before 2002, there also were various (still existing) deposit systems for re-usable bottles, e.g. for beer or carbonated water bottles. The deposits for reusable bottles are not regulated by law since they are the private business of the individual beverage manufacturer and can therefore vary in rate. Nonetheless there are some standard rates that are widely used:
- Glass bottles for most beer and beer mixed drinks (usually up to 0.5 litre): € 0.08
- Reusable glass and plastic bottles for most soft drinks (usually up to 2 litres): € 0.15
- Reusable glass bottles of a special kind and design (usually flip-top bottles for beer): between € 0.15 and € 0.50
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soda bottles carry a 25-cent deposit. For PET deposit bottles, a return rate of 95% (26,6 kton) is reported, compared to 66% (11,3 kton) of non-deposit PET bottles (2010). Glass beer bottles carry a 10-cent deposit with a further 1,50 euro deposit for the plastic crate. The return rate for deposit glass bottles is around 90% (=2160 million)(2009).
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.
The Nordic countries
Container deposit legislation is widespread in the Nordic countries. In some cases it replaced legislation which forbid the selling of some types of beverage containers, particularly aluminium beverage cans.
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 litres: 1.00 DKK
- Refillable glass bottles over 0.5 litres: 3.00 DKK
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles under 1 litre: 1.00 DKK
- Exception: Plastic bottles of 0.5 litres: 1.50 DKK
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles of 1 litre and over: 3.00 DKK
Similarly to the situation in 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 litre: 1.00 NOK
- Cans, glass and plastic bottles over 0.5 litre: 2.50 NOK
- 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 NOK 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 NOK (3,30 NOK 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. 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.
- Cans: 1.00 SEK
- 0.33 L glass bottle: 0.60 SEK
- 0.50 L glass bottle: 0.90 SEK
- ≤ 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 1.00 SEK
- > 1 L non-refillable PET bottle: 2.00 SEK
The 1.5 L refillable PET bottle with a deposit of 4.00 SEK 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.
- Aluminum cans: 0.15 €
- 0.33 L glass bottle: 0.10 €
- Bottles of wine and liquors (returned to Alko): 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 €
Until the turn of the 21st century most British bottled beer was sold (in pubs) in standard pint or half-pint bottles, although some brewers preferred their own distinctive designs. However, in the absence of legislation, and given the switch from pub to supermarket sales, the industry has now entirely abandoned refillable bottles. Container bottle deposits existed until the mid-1980s.
In Scotland, some Barr products in 750ml glass bottles, still have a 30p container deposit. 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.
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.
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- Container Recycling Institute - Bottle Bill Resource Guide
- Deposit System Administration
- Dansk Retursystem A/S - operator of the Danish deposit and return system (in Danish and English)
- Norsk Resirk - operator of the Norwegian deposit and return system (in Norwegian and English)
- Recyclers of South Australia Inc
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