Aluminum Can Conspiracy???

After searching and finding no answers, I have turned to the teaming millions as a last resort. I live in California, and the other day when taking my cans to a recycling center, I realized that the numbers didn’t add up. What do I mean? Well, when I purchase a beverage in an aluminum can, I am charged 5 cents AT THE REGISTER as a deposit on the aluminum. With me so far, right? Ok, also, I noticed that ON THE CAN it says that the “CA Redemption Value” is 5 cents per can. (Where is he going with this?) When I go to recycle the can, I only get 2.5 cents per can!!! Where is the other 2.5 cents that I PAID and was PROMISED ON THE CAN??? I am feeling really ripped off… I called every recycling center in town, and they all offered the same sum of money. I don’t know where else to turn.

Any ideas?


my WAG is that the 5c is the total cost of the recycle. Half goes to the individual collecting (or returning) the can, half goes to the recycle centre to pay their costs. You can regard the 5 p as a recycling tax, of which you can benifit from if you return your can.

Sounds like you culd get the full 5c if you were able to hand the cans over to the actual smelters, but in practice, you’re having to go through a scrap dealer acting as an intermediary agent.
Unless you can collect in huge bulk and supply regular amounts, there’s probably little hope that the smelters will be interested in talking to you.

2.5 cents per can is pretty good (IMO).

When I lived back East, and there was a deposit on soda bottles, the bottles were returned to the store. Will the stores in CA take the cans back?

No, the stores will not take the cans back. You’re supposed to get your full deposit back, AFAIK. I don’t buy canned sodas, so I don’t know about recycling the containers; but what if you returned the cans to the machines that are outside of the stores? (This would be a pain if you had a lot of cans, but wouldn’t the machines pay the correct amount?)

I assume that you count the number of cans that make up a pound, and calculate the payment for cans that way. If it really bothers you, you may want to contact a consumer reporter at your local news station. If there is a discrepancy between the deposit you pay and the money you get back, they might get enough people angry enough to do something about it.

Well that doesn’t make much sense. Here in New York the stores MUST take the cans/bottles back (up to a reasonable large amount - I’ve seen signs saying 250 max cans), and refund the full amount (.05 deposit means you get .05 refunded) - note this can be restricted to only the brands the store sells (so that Waldbaums supermarket does NOT need to refund on Pathmark supermarket brand soda cans)
The big supermarkets and such usually have the recycling machines somewhere off to the side, but they’re there. Heck, even a pizzeria or chinese take-out must take refund the deposit on a soda you brought there, though few people take advantage of that.
All in all, makes sense to me - you sold it, you charged me the deposit, so you refund it when I recycle the can at your store.
Or am I missing something with California stores here?

SirRays info is correct. In addition, if my understanding is correct, the depostit acts like a VAT (value added tax). It’s passed along or refunded at each stage starting from the manufacturer to the consumer and back. How are operating costs covered? Simple, not all bottles/cans are returned so that turns into profit for the inconvenience of the handling. As much as the bottlers and retailer hate it, it works. Since it has been instituted the streets and public areas have been a lot cleaner.

Now somebody explain why the California system seems to be flawed.

I don’t think this is true, at least not for the retail stores. AFAIK when the retailers buy cans wholesale, they are charged deposit just the same way the retailer charges its individual customers. When you return your can to the store, you get your deposit back, and the store returns the can to the operators of the whole recycling system and get the deposit back from them. It’s a flow of deposit from wholesale to store, from store to customer. When customer returns can, the deposit flows back from store to customer, and the store is refunded by the recyclign operators (as said, I can’t say for sure that’s the way those systems work, but I assume it is). In this scheme, the store does not benefit from your laziness if you choose not to return the can, so I think operating costs are not covered that way.

Instead, I think operating costs aren’t covered at all, or IOW they’re included in the prize of the soda can. The legislation could simply obligate stores and wholesale companies within their jurisdiction to participate in the scheme, because they’re making money and that’s why it is fair if they carry the costs of a system that’s designed to reduce the damage soda cans cause to the rest of the world.

In Germany, there has been a debate for years about a mnadatory nationwide deposit system for cans and such. It was enacted in January, and so far stores will only take back cans bought at them (you have to show receipt or a deposit token you were given when you bought the can). The government has decreed that a nationwide unified recycling system be installed, and you should be able to return your can to any store that sells them no matter where you actually bought it. The retailers aren’t really willing to do so, and lawsuits are going on. Meanwhile there are quarrels about what to do with deposits on cans that don’t get returned, which allegedly have accumulated to several dozen millions in the eight months the mandatory deposit has been in effect. The stores want to keep them, saying that’s a fair compensation for the handling of the thing. The government wants those monies to flow into some sort of fund that should finance ecological projects. It’s really a weird situation, and it’s about a lot of money because the deposit is more in the range of 20 cents instead of 5 or 2.5.

Here in Finland we pay and get back 0.15 euros per can. Also, 0.4 euros for big 1.5 liter bottles, 0.2 for 0.5 liter bottles and 0.1 for 1/3 liter bottles. Most people always return the bottles and cans (you would lose a lot of money if you wouldn’t) and we always get what reads on the bottles.


Interesting comments (thanks for taking the time to post). As far as I know, in California, the stores WILL NOT take the cans back, the buyer must take them to an authorized recycling center. As for the little recycling machines in front of the stores, they only give you 2.5 cents per can. If instead I take them to a regular recycling center (as I said, I’ve called ALL of them in the phone book!) they will pay 80 cents a pound for aluminum cans. The problem with that is, it takes 32 cans to make a pound. 32 cans, times 5 cents a can equals 1.60. In other words, when I pay my deposit I’m paying $1.60 a pound, but the recyclers will only pay me back half of that. Any more ideas??

:slight_smile: Thanks, LeRoy.

In California, retailers are not required to accept container returns – there are 1100 return centers at retail stores; curbside recycling and privately operated collections (i.e., boxes labeled “recycle” at parks and such) handle most of the rest. The standard deposit on containers less than 24 ounces is 2.5 cents.

I just looked at cans for Pepsi, Coke, and 7-Up brands. None of the ones I saw mentioned a CA refund of 5 cents; they all said “CA CASH REFUND” but didn’t mention the amount. (In smaller letters various other states are mentioned as giving 5 cents and Michigan as giving 10 cents. The exact layout of the can top depends on the company and maybe the particular bottler, though. Maybe the layout on your cans is confusing; what exactly does it say?)

Whenever I’ve bought cases of sodas (6, 12, or 24) in CA I’ve been charged at 2.5 cents per can. I don’t know what I’ve been charged when I bought singles though.

The rub here is that the deposit is only paid to the retailer by the consumer. I pay my twenty cents to the local store, and must get it back from him because he did not pay a deposit on it from his jobber.

This is not a complete system like the normal money back bottles where in every one who sells a bottle (in the entire wholesale/retail chain) must pay the deposit to the seller. In that kind of system, any store can return any bottle and get their money back, and that goes right back up the chain to whoever produced it.

With the cans, the deposit is a private thing (mandated by law) between me and the retailer. He must take my deposit, and give it back to me when I return the can - and he must see to the proper disposal (return for recycling.) He has never paid a deposit on the can, so there is no one to reimburse him if he takes back a can he didn’t sell.

The system sucks. It makes a canned or bottled drink that you buy while traveling cost 20cents more, because you most likely won’t be able to stop back at the same place again.

I think the system was made sucky on purpose. The Green party would (I think) like to stop cans and no-refund bottles from being made and used. If they can make cans and one-way bottles too inconvenient and/or too expensive (so I imagine) then that would perhaps force the things out of the market. In the mean time, you’ve got pissed off customers and unhappy retailers.

Collect a bunch of cans and drive them to another state that gives a full refund. To cover the cost of gas, use a US Post Office mailtruck.

Here in UK we are absolutely dire at recycling the government does nothing, and we dont get any deposit on cans (some bottles have deposits but only certain soda companies do it).

I wish UK would do more it really annoys me.

Hey The Controvert that’s illegal as hell. On the other hand, I don’t care. I suspect Michigan’s real motive is the tax revenue. The state keeps the difference between what the retailers/distributors take out and pay in. It’s a tax!

I’m told I’m not old enough to remember how dirty Michigan was before our deposit law. But I’ve driven through many, many non-deposit states and provinces, and you know what? They don’t look all that different from Michigan. I wonder what gives? Maybe it’s the tax revenue. Therefore if you bring in out of state returnables, it’s not a victimless crime – you’re robbing the state (I say it is victimless – the state isn’t due what’s not its).

I probably would support a California-like system. The current system whereby we return cans and bottles to the store is disgusting. The machines at the large places stink and are full of smelly people that save $100 worth of cans and take an hour to get rid of their crap on the 10% of the machines that are actually functioning. The small places just take forever to hand-count. I say just weigh the stuff and be done with it.

Question: in California is the deposit charged on top of the indicated price? Or is it built-in? In Michigan it’s on top of the indicate price, which doesn’t really bother me other than the getting rid of them part.

Like Schnitte said bottle policies in Mexico are strange. There’s no state or federal deposit, but the beer and soda distributors count on refilling their durable containers (pretty much mostly glass, some little bit of certain types of plastic). So the distributors charge the stores a deposit, which the stores will charge to consumers. The only place to get your deposit back is at the same store. I’ve gone a few times and was “trusted” with the bottles. Some places will do that. Others count on recognizing you or hoping you won’t bring back someone else’s bottles. And some give you a slip of paper as kind of a receipt which you need to bring the bottles back!

If only Negra Modelo were available in a can down there!

I’ve always seen it added separately. Come to think of it, I think I remember the deposit on cans being 3 cents.

No cans or [one use] bottles? What, do they want you to use goat bladder canteens or something?

They want you to use returnable (refillable) bottles only.

The whole system is poorly thought out. The Greens are unhappy because of the non-refillable nature of cans and some bottles. There is an existing system in place to provide for recycling of such stuff - I’ve got an extra trash can in my garage for such stuff and actually put more stuff in it than in the regular trash.

The Greens bitch, though, that the non-refillable stuff is a drain on the environment and that they aren’t being recycled properly - which is admitting that recycling isn’t working, since most folks turn the stuff in through the recycling trash cans like we do.

Since the Greens think the recycling isn’t working, they pushed for a law to make things even shittier.

This, while giving awards to the company that makes Tetrapak - a one-way recyclable package made of layered metal, plastic, and paper that is used for milk and fruit juices.

Half baked clueless Greenies.

Yeah I got a couple. First off as has been mentioned the deposit is .025 cents per can. After I read this thread last night I went to a Safeway store here in the East Bay and bought one each of two different sodas. The recipt says
[under the first soda] 1 @ 2/.05 CRV = .03
[Under the second soda] 1@ 2/.05 CRV = .02
So if you only buy sodas one can at a time you get screwed by a half a penny each time. If you buy soda in 6, 12, 24 packs it comes out even. If you pick up one empty can off the street you are four singles ahead. The day I worry about being screwed out of a half a penny is the day it is offical that I have no life.
Also it has been a few months since I have taken any cans in, but in the San Fernando Valley (were I live) most if not all recyclers have been paying $1.00/Lb. for cans for the last several years.