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Frequently Asked Questions About the Bottle Bill

DEC provides information on COVID-19 and Bottle Bill Container Redemption - Resumed June 3, 2020.

Here are some of the more frequently asked questions regarding New York's Bottle Bill:

How does New York's Bottle Bill work?

Deposit initiators collect at least a 5-cent deposit from each distributor or dealer on each beverage container sold to such distributors or dealers in New York.

Dealers (commonly referred to as "retailers") pay the distributor or deposit initiator at least a 5-cent deposit for each beverage container purchased.

Consumers pay the dealers the deposit for each beverage container purchased.

Consumers may then return their empty beverage containers to a dealer or redemption center to get their deposit back.

Retailers and redemption centers are reimbursed the deposit plus a 3.5-cent handling fee by the distributor or the deposit initiator for each empty beverage container returned.

When was New York's Bottle Bill enacted and where do I find it?

The New York State Returnable Container Act (more commonly referred to as the "Bottle Bill") is in Article 27, Title 10 of the Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), Sections 27-1001 to 27-1019.

The applicable regulations are at 6 NYCRR Part 367.

The law was originally enacted on June 15,1982, and effective July 1, 1983, pursuant to Chapter 200 of the Laws of 1982. Laws of 1983, 1984, 1988 and 1997 made changes to the original law.

Most recently, significant amendments made pursuant to Chapter 59 of the Laws of 2009 were enacted on April 7, 2009.

Can I bring my beverage containers I purchased in another state to New York and get the refund?

No. In order to get a refund, you must have paid a deposit in New York. The deposit-return system is based on the idea that a bottle or can is bought in New York, the deposit is paid, and then the deposit is returned to the purchaser when the container is returned. Bottles and cans bought in another state cannot be returned for a refund because no deposit was originally paid in New York, even if the container has a New York deposit indication (NY 5¢) on it. It is illegal to collect a refund in New York on a bottle or can purchased in another state with penalties of up to $100 per container or up to $25,000.

What beverages are covered by NY's Bottle Bill?

Carbonated Soft Drinks
Including Sparkling Water
Carbonated Energy Drinks
Carbonated Juice (anything less than 100% juice, containing added sugar or water)
Carbonated Tea
Soda Water
Beer and Other Malt Beverages
Mineral Water - Both carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water
Wine Products
Water which does not contain sugar, including flavored or nutritionally enhanced water

What beverages are not covered by NY's Bottle Bill?

Milk Products
Wine and Liquors
Hard Ciders
Non-Carbonated Tea
Non-Carbonated Sports Drinks
Non-Carbonated Juice
Non-Carbonated Energy Drinks
Drink Boxes or Pouches
Waters Containing Sugar

How do I know if a water product has added sugars and does not need a deposit?

Generally, look for the following:

First, determine if the product is identified as a water through the use of symbols, letters or words

Next, Check the nutrition label to see if a sugar has been added. If "Nutrition Facts" label indicates:

  • "Sugars" is 0 grams, then the water requires a deposit
  • "Sugars" is more than 0 grams, No deposit is required.

There may be limited exceptions to this generalization. Please contact DEC if you think "a beverage identified as a type of water to which a sugar has been added" does not conform to this general principle.

What types of beverage containers are included?

An individual, separate, sealed glass, metal, aluminum, steel or plastic bottle, can or jar,

Containers less than 1 gallon or 3.78 liters, and

Containers of beverages intended for use or consumption in New York.

Who is the deposit initiator?

A deposit initiator is the first bottler, distributor, dealer or agent to collect the refund value (deposit) on a beverage container sold in New York State.

The 2009 amendments allow for some options as to who may be the initiator. The deposit initiator may be:

  • A bottler of beverages;
  • A distributor of beverages in a beverage containers with an established refund value, if such distributor did not directly or indirectly purchase the container from a registered deposit initiator;
  • A dealer who sells or offers for sale a beverage in a beverage container, if such dealer did not directly or indirectly purchase the container from a registered deposit initiator; or
  • An agent acting on behalf of a registered deposit initiator.

** No one may sell a beverage container to anyone in NY unless the deposit on the beverage container is or has been collected by a registered deposit initiator.

** Note that "sale" means the act of selling or offering to sell, or distributing for use or consumption.

It does not matter which entity (bottler, distributor, dealer, agent) actually initiates the deposit, as long as it is initiated either before or when the beverage container is first sold or offered for sale in NY. If no one collects, or has already collected, the deposit on a beverage container, then such container must not be sold in NY.

When selling and/or purchasing beverages for sale in New York State, it needs to be clear to all parties as to who will be responsible for initiating deposits. It is strongly suggested that any agreements be in writing.

What are the requirements for beverage containers?

No one may sell a beverage container in NY unless the container has a refund value of not less than 5 cents.

Beverages containers must be permanently and clearly marked or embossed with New York State deposit information:

  • On metal containers - on the top of the container
  • On product label - front or back body label or on neck label.
  • No metal containers with parts that are detachable in opening the container, unless the detachable part will decompose by photo degradation or biodegradation.
  • Plastic loop holders (retainers) must be photodegradable or biodegradable or made of at least 90 percent post-consumer recycled high density polythene and indicate a resin identification code and must not have an opening greater than 1 3/4" in diameter.

What are the labeling requirements?

Printing must be at least 1/8" in height and indicate "NY" or "New York" and the amount of the deposit amount (Example: NY 5 cents or NY 5¢).

The label must be complete, legible, indelible and easily visible.

New York can be listed with the other deposit states.

No beverage container may have the refund value indicated only on the bottom of the container.

No beverage container may have the refund value indication on a part of the container which is removed upon opening including crown caps, screw caps, foil covers.

Rubberstamping is NEVER an acceptable labeling method.

"Ink-jetting" or "video-jetting" has not been considered an acceptable method for applying the indication of refund value to containers because it has never met all of the labeling requirements in the law and regulations. However, if there is an "ink-jetting" process that meets all such requirements, it may be permissible. Please contact DEC if you believe an "ink-jetting" process conforms to all such requirements, so that DEC may make a determination as to whether it is indeed acceptable.

Are there any alternatives for labeling the refund value?

Alternative labeling is acceptable only for beverages not manufactured in the United States.

A securely or permanently affixed separate label can be used to properly label, but must be applied by the deposit initiator, which will likely be the manufacturer, bottler, or brand owner for whose exclusive account private label beverages are bottled, canned, or otherwise packaged.

A separate label should never be applied if the deposit has not been collected by a registered deposit initiator.

A dealer or distributor, who is not the deposit initiator, should not apply these separate labels.

NOTE: Please see the definition of "private label beverage" below.

What is considered a private label beverage?

The beverage industry may use the term private label beverage differently than the Returnable Container Act. New York's law defines private label beverages as:

"Beverages purchased from a beverage manufacturer in beverage containers bearing a brand name or trademark for sale at retail directly by the owner or licensee of such brand name or trademark; or through retail dealers affiliated with such owner or licensee by a cooperative or franchise agreement." ECL § 27-1011(1)(a).

What about the New York-Specific UPC and label registration requirements included in the 2009 amendments?

The Court's injunction of the New York-Exclusive UPC provisions of the amendments (ECL § 27-1012(12)) remains in full force and effect. Therefore, deposit initiators are not required to register container labels with DEC and beverage containers are not required to bear a New York-specific UPC.

Are there any changes to the NYS Department of Health Label Certification?

The New York State Department of Health has informed DEC that there have been no changes made to New York State Department of Health policies, procedures, and regulations (New York State Department of Health, 10 NYCRR 5-6 (Subpart 5-6)) as they relate to bottled water labeling. All New York State Department of Health certified bottled water facilities will continue to follow the policies, procedures and regulations as they relate to the certification of their facility(ies). Therefore, labels will continue to be reviewed initially and at the time of renewal to ensure compliance with Subpart 5-6. For the most up-to-date information on this topic or if you have any label certification questions, please contact the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Water Supply Protection at (518) 402-7711.

Are there any dealers that are exempt from the law?

No. If a dealer sells carbonated beverages and/or water, then the dealer must charge the deposit and provide refunds for returns on those brands that they sell.

Can dealers limit the hours during which they will take returns?

Dealers must accept containers and pay refunds during all normal business hours. A dealer open less than 24 hours does not have to accept returns during the first and last hour of business.

Are there any exemptions on sales or distribution?

Beverage containers sold or distributed aboard ships and aircraft are exempt.

Beverage containers manufactured in New York, and which are sold outside of New York State are exempt.

Hospitals are NOT exempt.

What about "give-aways" or beverage containers distributed for free?

DEC regulations define the term "sale" as the act of selling or offering to sell, or distributing for use or consumption. Therefore, even beverage containers distributed for free must have a deposit initiated and must be properly labeled with the New York deposit.

What is a redemption center?

The law defines a redemption center as: any person offering to pay the refund value of an empty beverage container to a redeemer, or any person who contracts with one or more dealers or distributors to collect, sort and obtain the refund value and handling fee of empty beverage containers for, or on behalf of, such dealer or distributor.

Redemption centers are often small businesses that accept empty containers for redemption from the public and pay the refund value.

How do I open a redemption center?

There is no cost to obtain a redemption center registration. You must complete the 6 NYCRR Part 367 Notification Form for Redemption Center Registration (PDF) (47 kb) and send to:

625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7253

Please allow 30 days for processing of the application. In addition, before opening a redemption center, you should contact the municipality where you would like to locate your redemption center to ensure compliance with any local zoning and/or business requirements.

Please note: You are required to notify DEC in writing of any changes to the information submitted on the notification form. Mail any changes to the above address.

How do we find a third-party pickup service?

For a service fee, third-party pickup services will pick up the empty containers from distributors, dealers and redemption centers. These third parties normally negotiate a contract based on volumes collected.

The list of third-party companies and the areas they serve is available on the DEC website.

What happens to the unclaimed deposits from containers that are not returned?

Previously, all unclaimed deposits were kept by the beer and soda distributors who initiated the deposits on beverage containers. The 2009 amendments require that 80% of the unclaimed deposits be remitted to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance on a quarterly basis. Further information can be found on their website at:

Are there any exemptions to New York's Bottle Bill?

  • Beverage containers manufactured in New York and which are sold outside of New York State.
  • Beverage containers sold or distributed aboard ships and aircraft.

Please note: Hospitals; schools; state, county and local government agencies; non-profits; and nursing homes are NOT exempt. Any contracts or agreements may not be designed to hinder or frustrate the purpose or intent of the Returnable Container Act.