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Mandatory Deposits on Beverage Containers

Federal, state, and local lawmakers are examining a variety of legislative proposals to achieve our nation's solid waste management goals. While many voluntary programs are working, another approach - under consideration in Congress since 1972 - calls for a national forced deposit system on soda, wine cooler and beer containers sold in the U.S.

America's brewers are proven leaders in the country's effort to protect the environment. U.S. brewers created the successful Pitch In! anti-litter campaign of the 1970s. In addition, U.S. and international brewers pioneered critical advances in recycling technology, and brewer subsidiaries recycle millions of glass and aluminum beer containers. With this experience in mind, the brewers oppose a national forced deposit law because it will impose a costly, unrealistic burden on American government, industry and consumers - and it won't solve our nation's growing solid waste problem.

Brewers - along with most Americans - prefer a comprehensive solution which deals effectively with this complex public challenge, rather than a forced deposit law that narrowly targets less than 3 percent of the nation's solid waste.

Consider the following:

  • Various so-called "bottle bills" would impose a five- to ten-cent deposit on consumers who purchase certain beverages to provide an incentive to return the containers and obtain a refund.
  • No state has adopted a deposit system since 1983. In fact, deposit bills and initiatives have been rejected over 2,000 times by different state legislatures and voters in the U.S.
  • Within those states that have mandatory deposit laws, the average price of beer has increased by 24 cents to 75 cents per six-pack, over and above the deposit price. Soft drink prices have also increased. Forced deposit laws impose much higher labor costs on beverage wholesalers and retailers who must pay workers to handle, sort, store and transport empty beverage containers.
  • Aluminum is the most valuable recyclable product, and today, almost two-thirds of all aluminum cans are recycled, along with over one-third of all glass bottles. A national forced deposit law would effectively discourage voluntary recycling efforts because it diverts the most valuable recycling commodities - aluminum cans - away from municpal programs to recycle other products such as paper, cardboard, and plastic. As a result, recyclers can't afford to handle those less valuable commodities, which often end up in a landfill instead.
  • Higher consumer prices - and the inconvenience a deposit law entails - significantly reduce beverage sales. Studies on the impact of forced deposits in Michigan, New York, Oregon and Massachusetts show declines in beverage sales of as much as 10 percent.
  • Declining sales lead to fewer jobs, not only for those who brew beer, but also for workers in the distribution channels and manufacturers of bottles and cans.
  • Declining sales also mean the loss of tax revenue in states with forced deposit laws. Some states have experienced the loss of millions of dollars each year in state and local sales and excise tax collections on beer and soda beverages.

For decades, the nation's brewers have taken the lead in improving our environment and reducing solid waste. This has been accomplished through source reduction, recycling containers, and by developing ways to recycle many of the by-products of the brewing process. In fact, we are the largest recyclers of aluminum cans in the world, and along with beer wholesalers, retailers and others, we support curbside recycling programs in cities and communities across America. These efforts are aided by over 20 percent of American households in over 6,800 communities who participate in voluntary programs.

America's brewers urge Congress to reject mandatory deposit legislation and to support an integrated, comprehensive and realistic approach to managing solid waste, one that builds on our past achievements.


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