Good Question: Who gets a cut of unclaimed bottle deposits?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Not that long ago, we answered another question about deposits paid under the New York State bottle bill.

It covered the $0.05 per bottle or can that we are all charged at checkout. Then, I got some follow-up messages from you.

Here’s one: “If I don’t redeem a can or bottle where does the deposit go?” That is a good question because we’re talking about a lot of money.

Check out these numbers I found through the NYS Department of Tax and Finance. Go back year by year, you’ll see the state collects well over $100 million annually in unclaimed bottle deposits. It was a whopping $139 million in 2021.

At $0.05 each, that’s billions of recyclable containers that are never returned each year. So what happens to that revenue?

In the past, all unclaimed deposits were kept by beer and soda distributors. 2009 amendments changed that. Now, 80% of that money goes to the state.

The first $23 million of that (plus certain penalties for violations) goes to the Environmental Protection Fund.

Most of the rest goes to the general fund. If in any year the state collects more than $122.2 million in unclaimed deposits, like last year, the amount over that threshold also goes to the EPF. By the way, you should also know bottle deposits are not subject to sales tax.

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