If you live in New York, returning your cans and bottles to get the deposit back is second nature – it’s just something you do and probably have been doing for the majority of your life but do you know how it all started?

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The New York State Returnable Container Act of 1982 was created to help encourage the recycling of cans and bottles by placing a five-cent redemption on most cans and bottles.

Why Does New York Have a Bottle Redemption?

In the early days of drink containers, glass bottles were used and they were fillable but in the 1950s, refillable bottles started to be replaced by what are called “one-way” containers, meaning that they’re used once by the consumer and then disposed of.

By the 1970s, the litter created by “one-way” containers had become a national concern as these containers were just thrown all over the place.

In an effort to cut back on the amount of roadside litter and get people to actually recycle the products, Maine, Oregon, and Vermont took action by creating bottle bills in their states with Maine being the first state to enact the bill in 1976. New York eventually hopped on board, creating its own law in 1982.

What Does New York’s Bottle Bill Cover?

New York has a Bottle Bill of Rights. Under the Bottle Bill of Rights, consumers are allowed to return empty cans and bottles which contain carbonated soft drinks, soda water, beer and malt beverages, mineral water, wine coolers, and water of just about any type for a five-cent deposit return.

What Items Are Not Covered Under New York’s Bottle Bill?

Any cans or bottles purchased outside of New York, milk products, wine, liquor, hard cider, non-carbonated tea and juice, non-carbonated sports and energy drinks, waters containing sugar, and drink pouches or boxes. Containers must also clearly show deposit information on the label.

What Items Can a Redemption Center Refuse To Accept in New York?

According to the New York Bottle Bill of Rights, a redemption center has the right to refuse returns that do not clearly show that it has a refund value, broken bottles or crushed containers, cans that are corroded, containers that have been stuffed with trash such as paper, cigarette butts, etc.

What Happens to the Deposits From Cans and Bottles Not Returned in New York?

When a consumer purchases most any beverage in New York, they are charged a five-cent deposit on the beverage. But, where does the deposit go if the can or bottle isn't redeemed by the consumer? The simple answer is that New York state gets to keep the money. While five cents might not seem like a lot, it adds up.

According to the Office of the New York State Comptroller, "The Act requires all deposit initiators to register with the Department and remit 80 percent of any unclaimed bottle deposits to the Department on a quarterly basis."

In other words, when you don't redeem the deposit you paid on your cans and bottles, New York state gets it and that little five-cent deposit adds up when you consider billions of cans and bottles aren't returned to redemption centers. In 2017 and 2018, New York state earned  $117.7 million and $112.9 million respectively in unclaimed deposits. in 2021, that amount shot up to $139 million.

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