The Great Bottle Deposit Scam

In this age of non-refillable bottles and recycling, I, as a resident of New York City, find the $.05/bottle deposit to be a scam.

First thing I would like to know–who gets this money?

Second–who pays the people that turn in discarded bottles?
In my neighborhood, the supermarkets have can/bottle redemption machines. If you are diligent (or indigent), you can stand in a huge line for 30 minutes or more while the machines gobble each bottle/can one by one, then take the receipt to the cashier for a buck or two.

If every store that sold the bottles also redeemed empties, I would be less perturbed. But the pharmacy near my office where I buy soda during the workday is quietly collecting $.05 for every bottle and never giving any of it back to anyone.

Recycling is the law here, so there’s no longer the incentive to reduce waste by redeeming deposit bottles. Why does this scam continue?

Well, you pay, when you come down to it.

The idea is that they tack on an extra $0.05 (I miss the “cent” key I had on my typewriter at times like this)to the cost of your soda. You get that 5 cents back when you bring the bottle back and give it to a salesperson (if you can find one that will take it), or pop it into the bottle machine.

If you’re a lazy slob like me you occasionally throw out a bottle. That loses you five cents. You pay.

The intent of the bottle bill is to make the bottles valuable, so that either you will bring them in, or else a public-spirited soul, or a down-on-his-luck scavenger will bring it in for the deposit, rather than leaving it as a blight on the road.

I think it’s been shown to have an effect on cleaning up the streets. Nbody likes to leave money lying around. There are folks who want to jack up the deposit, in fact.

here in Michigan, where the deposit is $0.10, returning bottles is like a religion.

In NYC, as far as I know, every place that sells soda is required to redeem the bottles for the brands and sizes they sell. When the deposits started there were a lot of problems with places either not taking them,or restricting the hours or number of bottles. The finally printed the “bottle bill of rights” (name might be off a little)which the stores are supposed to post. The poster says which hours they have to take bottles, how many the have to take, etc, and I think there’s a complaint number.

I would be willing to guess that the store has to turn it in to the state, much as they do sales tax. The state would then use it to reimburse the stores that redeem the bottles, and use the remainder (if there is any) toward cleanup effors (ideally).

This has come up in the last few legislative sessions in Kentucky. I think it’s a great idea–it’s one of the few programs I can think of by which the solution to a problem (litter, or in the case of KY, illegal dumps) is paid for directly by those that cause it. Thanks to big money from opposing sides and the most ridiculous TV ad campaign in recent memory, it failed miserably. Oh well.

Dr. J

Here in California, the deposit is 2 cents for small aluminum cans and 5 cents for bottles. There used to be automatic vending machines called “Redeemers” that would take your bottles and cans and give you back your deposit money.

Nowadays, though, it’s almost impossible to find a redemption center. Most bottles and cans are thrown into the trash or the “generic recycling bin” unredeemed. The deposit, then, has effectively become a tax!

Actually, it’s not quite that bleak. Homeless people all seem to know where all the redemption centers are. They root through the trash collecting redeemable bottles and cans, and take them to the centers for booze money. I suppose it’s one kind of gainful employment!

Back when I was a kid of about 8-13, I would scour the neighbor looking for bottles. It was not unusual to scrounge up about $10 worth on a good day. Pretty good money for a kid in the early 70’s!

I did the same as Mr. Blue Sky but in Oregon, where they also have a $.05 deposit on cans and bottles. I would take out the trash for the older people in my apartment building and they would give me all their bottles and cans (lots of drinkers those old farts) I could make about $35-40 a week, which was better than a paper route at 13yoa.
All the supermarkets used to have redemption areas to take it to.

I can remember the receipts when you bought the drinks would have the deposit fee separate from the purchase price. I believe they would then send the deposit money to the state and then would get reimbursed depending on the amount of cans/bottles they had returned. There was a bit of paperwork I remember in redeming the damn things. A proper count, amount paid, to whom, etc…

Tracer, in the Bay Area at least, there’s quite a number of recycling centers around. So maybe it works out as a tax on the rural population.
I do know a man who comes down from Clear Lake to Oakland to get the best rates he can find – he’s been collecting cans and bottles all his life, it seems – and he gets a few hundred dollars each trip. He wanders through the lakeside parks, and though it doesn’t build up as fast as it used to, he makes at least one haul a year. (And he doesn’t pay the gas, since his work brings him around the area).

I think you should be able to find a center by calling 1-800-RECYCLE. I know it works locally, I’m only guessing it’s a statewide thing.

panama jack