A Time-Consuming and Costly Recycling System

Returnable Container Act

Why are there oversized container recycling machines in the front of supermarkets?  Have you ever wondered where the crushed cans and crushed glass winds up?  Who is responsible for ultimately recycling these materials?

Here’s some history…


  • Our state legislature passed the Returnable Container Act, mandating that beer and soda distributors place a five-cent deposit on the products they sell
  • Distributors (as the “deposit initiator”) took responsibility for recycling containers that are redeemed at a retailer or redemption center
  • Deposit initiators pay the retailer or redemption center a 2-cent handling fee for containers the public brings back for “redemption”


  • The products mandated to have a five-cent deposit expanded to include water
  • The handling fee paid to retailers was raised 75% from 2-cents to 3.5-cents per container
  • Also, prior to the 2009 expansion, our members were able to keep the deposits from unredeemed containers to offset the recycling costs.  However, in 2009 the state began seizing 80% of the unredeemed monies from distributors  


Our members pick up and recycle an even wider scope of containers, making the task more time consuming and laborious.  Our members have invested millions of dollars into either building their own recycling facilities on-site or contracting through a third party company to pick up, sort and recycle their containers.   

There is systemic fraud in this system which not only takes away from our members’ small businesses, negatively affecting their ability to hire additional personnel and/or expand, but now the fraud cheats New York State out of funds.  Many of our member companies are struggling to keep up with the cost to recycle the containers they sell.  Several members, due to their geographic location near the Pennsylvania or New Jersey border, are especially burdened by having to redeem and recycle what are known in the industry as “foreign containers” (containers bought in for example New Jersey, a non-deposit state, and redeemed in New York.  The New York wholesaler never sold these containers yet because it is nearly impossible to distinguish these containers, the New York wholesaler pays the consumer the deposit and the retailer the handling fee).

Bottle redemption is not simple nor is it inexpensive.  It is a tremendous mandate the state imposes on beer distributors.