What Containers are Refundable: A Guide to Recycling and Container Deposit Laws

If you’ve ever bought a bottle or a can of soda, you might have noticed that there’s a small sum added to the price. That’s because container deposit laws are in place in some states and provinces in North America, which require businesses to add a small deposit to the price of beverages that come in reusable containers. This is done to reduce litter and encourage recycling, as customers can return the containers and get their deposit back.

The containers that are refundable vary by state and province, but generally include soda and beer cans, as well as plastic and glass bottles. Some states also include water bottles, while others include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. These laws are designed to incentivize consumers to make more eco-friendly choices, and they seem to be working. According to a 2017 study by the Container Recycling Institute, states with bottle bills (as they’re sometimes called) have an average recycling rate of 60%, while those without bottle bills have an average rate of just 24%.

If you’re not sure whether your state or province has a bottle bill, it’s worth looking into. Not only can you make a small impact on the environment by recycling your containers, but you can also earn back a little bit of money in the process. Plus, it’s a win-win situation for businesses and customers alike, as it encourages more sustainable practices while also promoting economic benefits. So next time you crack open a cold one, take a close look at the label and see if you can cash in on its container.

Types of Containers

When it comes to recyclable containers, not all are created equal. Some containers are eligible for a refund while others are not. Here are some of the most common types of containers that are refundable:

  • Aluminum Cans
  • Plastic Bottles
  • Glass Bottles

Let’s take a closer look at each of these types of containers:

Aluminum Cans

Aluminum cans are a popular beverage container and are widely accepted for recycling. They can be recycled indefinitely without losing any quality, which makes them a valuable commodity in the recycling industry. Not only are they easy to recycle, but they are also lightweight and stackable, making transportation efficient and cost-effective.

Plastic Bottles

Plastic bottles are another common type of recyclable container. However, not all plastic bottles are created equal. Generally, only plastic bottles with a recycling symbol and number #1, #2, or #3 are refundable. These are the most common types of plastic bottles used for food and beverages, such as water bottles, soda bottles, and juice bottles.

Glass Bottles

Glass bottles are one of the oldest and most reliable packaging materials. They are made from natural materials, such as sand, soda ash, and limestone, which makes them easy to recycle. In fact, glass bottles can be recycled indefinitely without losing quality. However, not all glass bottles are refundable. Only glass bottles that are designed for beverages are eligible for a refund.

Table: Container Refund Rates by State

State Refund Rate
Oregon 10 cents per container
Michigan 10 cents per container
California 5 cents per container (less than 24 ounces), 10 cents per container (24 ounces or more)
New York 5 cents per container (less than 48 ounces), 10 cents per container (48 ounces or more)

It’s important to note that refund rates and eligible containers may vary by state. Make sure to check with your local recycling center to determine which containers are eligible for a refund in your area.

Return Policies

One important aspect when it comes to containers is their return policy. Here are some key things to keep in mind:

  • Not all containers are refundable. Before purchasing, carefully read the return policy to see if the container you are interested in can be returned for a refund.
  • If the container is refundable, make sure to keep the receipt and any other documentation related to the purchase, as this may be required for the return process.
  • Some retailers may have specific requirements for returned containers, such as ensuring they are in their original packaging and not damaged. Always check the return policy for details on any such requirements before returning the container.

Types of Containers that are Refundable

Depending on the retailer or manufacturer, there are certain types of containers that may be refundable. These can include:

  • Beverage containers: Soda and beer containers are often refundable in states with bottle deposit laws, which means you can bring them back to the store and receive a small refund.
  • Shipping containers: If you purchase a container for shipping purposes and it is unused, some retailers may allow you to return it for a refund.
  • Food storage containers: Many manufacturers offer a satisfaction guarantee for their food storage containers, which allows you to return them for a refund if they do not meet your expectations.

Returns Due to Defects

If a container is defective or arrives damaged, most retailers will allow you to return it for a refund. However, the return policy may have specific time frames for when the defect must be reported, so it is important to read the policy carefully and report any issues in a timely manner.

Retailer Return Policy
Amazon Offers a 30-day return window for most items, including containers.
Wal-Mart Offers a 90-day return window for most items, including containers. Must have receipt or order confirmation for return.
Target Offers a 90-day return window for most items, including containers. Must have receipt or order confirmation for return.

It is important to always check the return policy before purchasing a container to ensure that you understand the requirements for returning it. By doing so, you can avoid any issues and feel confident in your purchase.

Recycling Programs

Recycling programs aim to reduce waste by collecting and processing certain types of materials for reuse in manufacturing new products. One key aspect of these programs is the identification of which containers are eligible for refunds based on their material composition. Generally, the following types of containers are refundable:

  • Beverage containers made of aluminum, glass, or plastic
  • Metal food cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Paper-based milk and juice cartons

In some jurisdictions, containers that are not eligible for refunds may still be accepted for recycling in curbside or drop-off programs. It is important to check the specific guidelines for your area to ensure proper disposal.

The success of recycling programs depends on the cooperation of individuals and businesses to participate in the collection and processing of eligible materials. Some communities offer incentives for recycling, such as lower trash fees or rewards for high participation rates. Education and public awareness campaigns can help to promote recycling habits and reduce contamination of recyclable materials.

Benefits of Recycling Challenges of Recycling
Conservation of natural resources and energy High costs of collection and processing
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions Contamination of recycled materials with non-recyclable items
Creation of jobs in recycling and manufacturing industries Uneven availability and accessibility of recycling programs

By understanding the types of containers that are refundable and the benefits of recycling, we can all make small changes in our daily habits to support a healthier planet and a more sustainable future.

Eco-Friendly Packaging

As conscious consumers, we’re always on the lookout for ways to reduce our carbon footprint and lessen the waste we produce. The packaging industry is no exception, and as a result, they’ve come up with a variety of eco-friendly packaging solutions. Here are some of the most common types of containers that are refundable:

  • Glass Bottles: Glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. When you return a glass bottle, it can be cleaned, sterilized, and refilled up to 20 times before the glass becomes too brittle to use again.
  • Aluminum Cans: Aluminum is another highly recycled material that can be repurposed again and again without losing its durability. Recycling aluminum cans takes a lot less energy than creating a new one from scratch, and it prevents tons of aluminum waste from piling up in landfills.
  • Paperboard Boxes: Paperboard is a type of cardboard that is often used for cereal boxes, shoe boxes, and other types of dry goods packaging. It’s made from wood pulp, which makes it biodegradable and recyclable. Some stores offer a refund for paperboard boxes returned, ensuring that they get a second life.

When it comes to packaging, it’s important to pay attention to the materials used. The process of manufacturing and disposing of packaging materials has a significant environmental impact, and choosing eco-friendly materials can help reduce that impact.

In addition, it’s essential to follow proper recycling practices. Not all materials are created equal, and some can be contaminated, which makes them ineligible for recycling. Make sure to separate your recyclables and keep them clean to ensure that they get repurposed appropriately.

Reusable Tote Bags

Who said that packaging can’t be fashionable and eco-conscious at the same time? Reusable tote bags are an excellent alternative to single-use plastic bags, which are one of the biggest culprits in the current plastic waste crisis.

You can use tote bags to carry your groceries, and you can use them when you’re out running errands, shopping, or going to work or school. Tote bags support environmentally conscious behavior and reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans and landfills.

Recycling Symbols

Not all packaging is recyclable, and some materials may be recyclable in some places but not in others. Therefore it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of recycling symbols to recognize whether a material is recyclable or not. Unfortunately, recycling symbols can be confusing, with different regions using different symbols. However, generally speaking, symbols featuring a number in the center are recyclable, while symbols featuring “not” or crossed out are not.

Symbol What it means
Material is recyclable
🚮 Material is non-recyclable or non-biodegradable
🚯 Material should be kept out of the environment, especially oceans, rivers, and bodies of water

It’s essential to dispose of packaging correctly and follow proper recycling practices. It may take a bit more effort, but it’s worth it for the sake of our planet.

Container Deposits

Container deposits are fees that consumers pay when they purchase certain drink containers. These deposits are refundable, meaning that consumers can get their money back when they return the containers to the appropriate recycling center. Container deposit laws differ from state to state and country to country, but they have the same basic goal: to reduce litter and promote recycling by giving consumers a financial incentive to return their containers for recycling.

  • Examples of Containers that are Refundable:
    • Soda cans and bottles
    • Beer bottles and cans
    • Water bottles
    • Juice cartons
    • Wine bottles

Some container deposit laws apply only to specific types of containers, while others cover a wide range of materials. In some places, there are even container deposit laws that cover food and beverage packaging in addition to drink containers.

Container deposit laws have been shown to be effective in increasing recycling rates and reducing litter. In states and countries with container deposit laws, recycling rates for covered containers are typically higher than 75%.

The table below gives an overview of container deposit laws in different regions:

Region Types of Containers Covered Deposit Amount
United States (Michigan) Carbonated beverages, beer, wine coolers, liquor, water, and other non-carbonated drinks 10 cents
Canada (Alberta) Beer cans, bottles, and pouches; coolers and ciders; and wine and liquor bottles 10 cents for each container ≤ 1L and 25 cents for containers > 1L
Germany Most beverage containers, including glass, plastic, and aluminum/metal cans 25 cents for containers ≤ 0.15L, 50 cents for containers > 0.15L

It’s important to note that container deposit laws are not without controversy. Some argue that they are regressive taxes that disproportionately impact low-income consumers. Others suggest that container deposit laws can lead to the loss of jobs in the recycling industry, as well as increased transportation costs and emissions associated with transporting containers back to recycling centers.

Refundable vs Non-refundable Containers

One of the crucial factors to consider before purchasing container items is their refundability. Refundable and non-refundable containers have various differences that affect the buyer’s decision-making process. Below is a detailed explanation of refundable and non-refundable containers, their benefits, and drawbacks.

Refundable Containers

  • Refundable containers are types of packaging that allow the buyer to get back some of the purchase price.
  • These types of containers usually have a deposit system; the buyer pays extra money that the store refunds upon return of the container.
  • The containers returned by the customer are usually in a reusable and intact condition, which is profitable for the manufacturer and the store.
  • Refundable containers include cans, glass and plastic bottles, and jars with interchangeable lids.
  • The benefits of refundable containers are environmental sustainability, waste reduction, and financial savings.

Non-refundable Containers

Non-refundable containers, on the other hand, are those that cannot be returned to the store, and buyers cannot receive a refund. Below are some examples of non-refundable containers:

  • Paper bags and boxes
  • Plastic bags and pouches
  • Tetra packs and disposable cups
  • Non-refundable containers are usually affordable, but they contribute to environmental pollution and waste generation.

Refundable vs Non-refundable – A Comparison

Refundable and non-refundable containers have various differences that make them better or worse based on the buyer’s needs. Below is a table comparing Refundable and non-refundable containers.

Refundable Containers Non-Refundable Containers
Environmental-friendly Non-Environmental friendly
Reusable and Recyclable Disposable
Costly Affordable
Encourages waste reduction Contributes to waste generation and pollution

Overall, when considering refundable vs non-refundable containers, it is crucial to consider the environmental impact, cost, and waste benefits of each type of container to make an informed purchase decision.

Environmental Impact of Non-Refundable Containers

Non-refundable containers, such as plastic and Styrofoam, have a severe impact on the environment. These containers are typically used for single-use purposes like take-out food containers, cups, and bags. Here are some of the ways non-refundable containers are impacting the environment:

  • CO2 Emissions: Non-refundable containers require a lot of energy to create and produce. This process releases significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
  • Waste in Landfills: Non-refundable containers are not biodegradable, and they take hundreds of years to decompose in landfills. This means that these containers sit in landfills, taking up space and polluting the environment for many years.
  • Water Pollution: Non-refundable containers that litter streets and beaches can end up in oceans and rivers, contaminating the water and harming marine life. Animals can mistake these containers for food and ingest them, leading to illness or death.

It is essential to reduce our use of non-refundable containers to minimize their environmental impact. Refundable alternatives, such as glass bottles and aluminum cans, are great options because they are endlessly recyclable and can be repurposed without harming the environment. By choosing refundable containers, we can help reduce CO2 emissions, limit waste in landfills, and prevent water pollution.

According to a 2020 report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, switching to reusable alternatives could avoid 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2050. This shows that every small change we make in our daily lives can contribute to a more sustainable future.


Non-refundable containers have a significant impact on the environment, and it is vital to reduce our use of them. By choosing refundable alternatives, we can help minimize CO2 emissions, waste in landfills, and water pollution. It is essential to make small changes in our daily lives to contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet and future generations.

What Containers Are Refundable?

Q: What types of containers are refundable?

A: Generally, beverage containers such as cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, and juice boxes are refundable. However, it may vary depending on the state or province.

Q: How much money can I get for refundable containers?

A: The refund amount varies by location, but it’s usually around 5-10 cents per container.

Q: Do I need to keep the container in its original condition to get a refund?

A: No, as long as the container is clean and identifiable, it’s eligible for a refund.

Q: Can I get a refund for containers purchased out of state?

A: Unfortunately, no. Each state has its own refund program, and containers must be purchased and returned within the same state to be eligible for a refund.

Q: Are alcoholic beverage containers refundable?

A: It varies by state. Some states include beer and wine bottles in their refund program, while others do not.

Q: Can I still recycle refundable containers if I don’t want the refund?

A: Of course! Recycling is always a great option for containers that are not eligible for a refund or if you choose not to redeem them.

Closing Thoughts

Thanks for reading and learning about the different types of refundable containers. Remember to always do your part in reducing waste by recycling and properly disposing of containers, whether they are refundable or not. Come back soon for more eco-friendly tips!