Good Question: Bottle returns and the push to change state law

[anvplayer video=”5129114″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Here’s a good question about bottle and can returns for recycling. There are actually two parts to this with two answers.

Here’s a comment from a viewer:

“I went to a local supermarket to return some bottles and cans that were from a party. The items all had the NYS 5 cent return on the can lid & label. The machine at the store did not accept some of the items, so I took them to the service desk to get the refund. The person at the service desk said that the machine program accepts ONLY ITEMS THE STORE SELLS !!! I said what do I do with the cans and bottles. They said THROW THEM IN THE TRASH !!!”

First, don’t throw them in the trash. Put them in your bin by the road at home or go to another recycling center.

Now to the main point of frustration from that viewer – rejections on bottles or cans.

When can a store reject returns? Well, the rules are clear and posted on the NY State Department of Environment Conservation’s website.

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.

Are any places exempt? DEC says: “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.”

Now to another comment: “Why haven’t they raised the deposit redemption amount from $0.05 given the rising cost of everything?”

There haven’t been any major updates to the bottle return law since 2009 but there could be something on the horizon in Albany depending on how much traction it gets.

In the NYS Assembly, earlier this year lawmakers introduced a bill that “Expands the New York bottle bill by including more types of eligible beverages and increasing the minimum refund value to ten cents.”

What other items would be covered? Certain wine and liquor bottles, dairy products, ice teas and sports drinks.

That bill didn’t go anywhere this year but it could always be brought back again in 2023.

If you have a good question that you want us to answer, email Brennan Somers at