Should a bigger better bottle bill include wine bottle deposits?

recyclecan Have you ever tried to return beer bottles for a deposit in New York State? I have and it ain’t pretty. The last time I did it, I brought 12 bottles in to the supermarket and left after much grinding and crashing in the machine with six bottles and a receipt for a 20 cent credit. Woohoo! It made me want to drive to Michigan for their ten cent deposit a la Seinfeld!

Bottle or container deposits are a hot topic now. Eleven states require some sort of deposit, mostly on beer and carbonated soft drinks. But former New York Governor Spitzer and now Governor Paterson have now proposed a “bigger better bottle bill,” which would expand the five cent deposit system to single serving sport drinks and water. The goal of this policy proposal is to increase recycling–as well as revenues to the state.

I was not surprised to learn after my experience that there’s a lot of deposit money that is not collected. In fact, it was $100 million last year. But I was astounded to learn that that uncollected deposit money goes to distributors of beer and soda, not the state. Shocking! In the new legislation, these funds would go specifically to New York’s Environmental Protection Fund.

It’s funny that wine bottles have not been included in a bottle bill in New York. They aren’t included in Oregon either, which enacted the first container deposit laws in 1971. But reforms are afoot in Oregon, where many single-serve, noncarbonated beverages now have a deposit as of January 1 of this year. Further, a task force has just recommended adding all beverages except for milk by 2013. HB 2184 proposes changes to the bottle bill based on these recommendations and is scheduled for a hearing on Thursday.

What do you think: should wine bottles also have a deposit? As the program currently stands in New York, I don’t think so. Five cents might have been enough when the program was first enacted but now it would just be another tax, not an incentive to return any bottles. And the redemption process for beer is not very effective since not every store accepts bottles from every brand. Further, wine is mostly consumed at home or restaurants/bars, which tends to lead to high levels of recycling. Unless we all start drinking wine in the park, that is.

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10 Responses to “Should a bigger better bottle bill include wine bottle deposits?”


  1. Like you mentioned- I drink wine mostly at home, and recycle all the bottles here. I do a lot of my shopping on foot, and I don’t really want to lug a bunch of empties with me 10 blocks to the grocery or package store. But then again, these aren’t put in place for people that already do the right thing…

    Now if they made the deposit $1. I would drag them all back to the store.


  2. I am all for a $1 per bottle of any type bottle bill. Make it more than beverages only, like say oil containers, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, etc! I also think we should hike out national gas tax .50c a year for the next 8 years to help pay all of the true costs of personal and commercial motorized transportation.


  3. its 10cents in Vancouver, Canada here.


  4. Just back from Costa Rica and they reuse all beer bottles, they are not crushed and recylcled but instead washed and filled back up to be resold. Just like the old days when I used to collect Pspsi/Coke etc bottles to be sent back to the bottler to be refilled. Why not create an incentive program for all bottlers to reuse their containers, juice, beer, wine etc? It will also reduce our consumption of plastics/fossil fuels. This is really where we need to head-we are swimming in the beaurcratic mess these government programs create


  5. $1 sounds amazing for a deposit increase, but where would that money come from? If 10 cents is currently the highest, I’d even say 40 or 50 cents would be a motivating increase.

    As for Jimbo’s note, it would just require a standard of sanitization assurance. Without that assurance, people may not trust how clean the bottle they’re getting back is.


  6. With so many glass vendors and ID-OD configurations (screw cap and cork finished) I for one will not bottle any wine in used glass. The box and divider are actually more important and not prone to reuse. Lets see how the PET bottles that were used for some of the “Nuvo-Bojalis” went for the French this year. (4 brands tried them.) -One chemist customers said she would not drink wine from that bottle! I still want to get my “Cum-by-yah”s and go as green as posible.


  7. In Ontario there’s a 10 cent fee for bottles less than 630mL and a 20 cent fee for larger ones (i.e. regular wine bottles and larger).

    Basically no one returns their empties, since it’s such a desultory value compared to the price. 10 cents for a bottle of beer – or $2.40 per case – gets you a somewhat decent reward for your efforts (drinking and assembling!). Wine and liquor gives you minimal return (unless you have a serious problem or are running huge and high class parties). Basically the only people who return their empties are very poor scavengers who go door to door, students in their mass beer consumption days, and bars/restaurants.

    The funny thing is that this fee was instituted on wine & liquor bottles despite very successful municipal recycling programs that were capturing most of the glass bottles. It doesn’t change anyone behavior, homeowners just put bottles out in their recycling to let the scavengers grab the bottles, and the tiny increase in price isn’t noticeable.

    All these systems are huge scams.


  8. […] ever sees the light of day, hopefully unreturned wine bottles will not see the deposit go to the wholesaler rather than the state’s coffers.) Even though deposits are small where they exist now, the EPA report indicates recycling rates for […]


  9. […] Related: “Should a bigger better bottle bill include wine bottle deposits?” […]


  10. As someone who lives in a state without the bottle deposit system (Florida), it’s a crying shame that it hasn’t yet been embraced here. People are so desperate for cash ’round that I would imagine the extra $1.20 generated from returns might come in handy.


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