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Deposit Return Systems

Last modified: October 09, 2008
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Summary of The National Beverage
Producer Responsibility Act of 2002

For over thirty years, bottle bills have been extremely effective at achieving economic, social and environmental goals. But they have also been extremely unpopular with the regulated parties. The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002 presents an opportunity to provide a new approach that addresses concerns of the industry stakeholders without compromising the public interest.

The traditional bottle bill legislation prescribes specific roles and responsibilities for retailers and distributors. Some believe that these prescriptive provisions constrain the industry from innovating more cost-effective solutions to the beverage container management challenge.

The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act takes a different approach by setting a performance standard which industry must meet and allowing industry the freedom to design the most efficient deposit-return program to reach the standard. By providing beverage companies the flexibility to structure and operate their own container recovery programs, this legislation simply extends the beverage company's "supply chain" to include the management of empty containers after consumption. This approach is appealing because it reduces the administrative burden on government and takes full advantage of the business skills of industry.

The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act confines 'prescriptive language' to one provision: the requirement that the container management system use an economic instrument (refundable deposits) to encourage recycling. Only refundable deposits have been capable of achieving the desired level of beverage container recycling. In fact, the bottling industry itself used deposits very effectively for decades to encourage the return of beverage bottles.

The National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act complements state bottle laws. Brand owners who achieve a recovery rate of at least 80 percent under a current state beverage container program are exempt from this legislation in those states. Since most of the bottle bill states already have redemption rates over 80 percent, brand owners in those states would be unaffected by this legislation if their redemption rates cover the beverages included in this bill.

Specifically, the National Beverage Producer Responsibility Act of 2002 would:

  • establish a measurable performance standard of 80% recovery of used, empty beverage containers for recycling or reuse;
  • establish a minimum refundable deposit, of 10 cents, as the economic incentive for consumers to recycle;
  • require beverage brand-owners, as a condition of sale of their product, to develop and submit to the Environmental Protection Agency a Beverage Container Management Plan, within 180 days of the law's implementation;
  • establish consequences for failing to submit, implement and operate the approved Program and achieve the legislated Performance Standard; and
  • establish provisions for evaluation and monitoring of the industry 's performance.



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