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New York State Returnable Container Act

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

What is the Act?

bottle refund machines

New York's Returnable Container Act requires at least a 5 cent deposit on carbonated soft drinks, beer and other malt beverages, mineral water, soda water, water and wine cooler containers. Although commonly called the Bottle Bill, the Act includes more than bottles: A deposit is required on glass, metal and plastic containers that hold less than one gallon or 3.78 liters. To encourage reuse and recycling, both refillable and nonrefillable containers carry a deposit.

How effective is the Act?

Since the Act went into effect, redemption rates have been 70-80 percent and beverage container litter has been reduced by 75 percent.

How does it work?

The consumer pays a deposit when purchasing beverages and gets a deposit back when returning containers. Containers must have a New York refund label to be redeemed.

What about returns?

A consumer can return empty containers to any store or vendor that sells the same type of container. Under the Returnable Container Act, type of container means brand, size, shape, color and composition of the container. For example, if a store carries only the 16 oz. container of Brand X, it does not have to redeem other sizes of that brand or containers from other brands that it doesn't carry.

When can a store reject returns?

A store may refuse to return a deposit if:

  • The store does not carry that type of container, meaning the same brand, size, shape, color and composition of the container.
  • The container does not have a proper New York refund label.
  • The container is not in reasonably good condition. A store may reject broken bottles or cans that are corroded or crushed.
  • The container has anything in it besides small amounts of dirt, dust or moisture.

Can a store limit returns?

All dealers may limit the number of containers accepted from one person to 240 containers per visit or to 240 containers per day, but only if they have a sign posted stating this limit. This sign must also state that any redeemer may make 48 hour advance arrangements to redeem an unlimited number of empty beverage containers. Stores that are not open 24 hours a day do not have to accept containers during the first and last hour of their business day.

Dealers whose place of business is less than 10,000 square feet in size and whose primary business is the sale of food or beverages for off-premises consumption, may limit the number of containers redeemed per person per day to 72 containers, provided that:

- Dealers have a written agreement with a redemption center whose location is in the same county and within ½ mile of the dealer and whose hours of operation cover at least 9:00 a.m. through 7:00 p.m. daily. This agreement can be with a mobile redemption center, as long as the hours of operation cover at least four consecutive hours between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. daily and is located within ¼ from the dealer. The dealer must post a conspicuous, permanent sign, open to public view, identifying the location and hours of operation of the affiliated redemption center. The sign must be at least 8" x 10", with print at least ¼ inch size, in a color which contrasts with the background color; AND

- Dealers must offer, at a minimum, a consecutive two hour period between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. daily whereby they will accept up to 240 containers, per redeemer, per day. The dealer must post a conspicuous, permanent sign identifying these hours and may not change the hours of redemption without first posting a thirty day notice. The sign must be at least 8" x 10", with print at least ¼ inch size, in a color which contrasts with the background color.

What if a store doesn't comply with the RCA?

Enforcement of the RCA is done by the Department's Division of Law Enforcement. To file a complaint you can contact the Regional Division of Law Enforcement Office for your county and request a complaint form. Help make it work for you!

  • Bring your containers back often
  • Make sure they are clean and empty
  • Containers must be labeled with a NY refund label

Don't trash 'em, ... cash 'em!

The Returnable Container Act has helped

  • reduce trash
  • save landfill space
  • keep parks and roadsides clean
  • conserve energy
  • recycle glass, plastic and aluminum

A small deposit pays big dividends in conservation of energy and valuable resources.