Depending on where you travel to in the U.S. bottle/container deposit laws vary. They may or may not affect you as all states are not the same. This article addresses the frequently asked questioned about bottle/container deposits. 

What is a bottle/container deposit?
A bottle deposit is a small fee charged per container on products whose packaging is recyclable. Usually it is between 5 and 10 cents per container.  Oregon was the first state in the union to pass a "bottle bill", in 1971.

What states have bottle/container deposit laws?
As of October 2010 there are 11 states that have container deposit laws. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Vermont.

What types of goods are bottle/container deposit imposed on?
Bottle deposits are generally charged on plastic and glass bottled beverage containers or aluminum cans from carbonated beverages purchased in retail stores such as groceries and liquor stores. In some states, water bottles are included. A bottle deposit is typically not charged on drinks ordered in restaurants or bars that are served in these types of containers.

Can you give an example of how a bottle deposit might be charged?
Sure. Let’s say you are in the state of Connecticut and decide to purchase a 12 pack of a carbonated beverage which is in 12 ounce aluminum cans. The package is on sale for $3.00 but in Connecticut there’s a 5 cent deposit charged per container. That 12 pack will now cost 60 cents more (12 containers * 5 cents = 60 cents). If the state you’re in also charges a sales tax on this type of product then that would also apply to the products base price. In the state of Connecticut a 6% sales tax would apply to the $3.00 base price adding 18 cents to your total.  So now the total price would be: $3.00 product price + 60 cents bottle deposit + 18 cents sales tax = $3.78 total.

What is the purpose of bottle/container deposits?
Originally in Oregon it was designed to help reduce littering. Now it is considered an environmental measure used to encourage the recycling of products whose containers can be reduced and reused. By increasing recycling it in turn promotes a reduction in littering. Recycling these containers also helps extend the usable lifetime of landfills.

Is the bottle deposit charge refundable?
Yes, this charge may be partially or fully refundable. It varies based on state. This is why it is not uncommon to find homeless or poor people collecting these containers amongst litter as a means of income in states that have bottle/container deposit laws.

What if I don't want to bring the containers to a recycling center for redemption?

You can dispose of them like you normally would, however you will not receive a refund in part or in whole of the bottle deposit you paid. You do have some other options though. Some organizations collect the containers as donations to raise funds for their cause. Or your container may get collected by a homeless person. If none of these occurs, it will generally end up in a landfill.

Where do I go to recycle the containers I was charged a bottle/container deposit on?
Check to see if and where there are recycling facilities in your area. Then simply bring the empty bottles and cans to a local recycling center. Many grocery stores have a Bottle Return section near the entrance that has recycling machines (reverse vending machines) for you to use.

How do I use the recycling machines (reverse vending machines) to get a bottle/container deposit refunded to me?
There are generally 3 types of recycling machines for the three types of materials that the containers are made of (glass, plastic, aluminum). Insert the container into the appropriate machine type. If the container is accepted you will hear it get crushed. A display on the machine will then show the appropriate total bottle/container deposit amount that you will receive.  After your container is crushed you may continue by inserting the next container you have into the machine. Wait until it is accepted before inserting another. The display will continue to total the amount you will receive. When you are finished hit the button and a receipt will print. Take your receipt(s) and bring them to a cashier who will then take the receipt(s) and give you the cash for the total amount of your receipt(s).

Why won't the recycling machine (reverse vending machine)  take my bottle/container?
There are several reasons why the machine may not take your container.
1)   Inspect your can. Is your can crushed or dented? If so try to fix it and then reinsert it. Often dented or crushed cans make it hard for the machine to read their bar code to determine whether or not they are accepted for recycling. A machine cannot often read a wet can.
2)   Check the display to make sure that the machine is not full. If it is, hit the button to print your bottle/container deposit receipt and find an attendant or worker to empty the machine so that you can continue your returns. Or, if there is another available machine to use you can print your receipt from the machine you were first using and then continue processing your returns on another.
3)   Your container is from a product whose bottle cannot be accepted for recycling. Not all beverage containers can be recycled. Many centers are prepared for situations like this and will have a garbage container nearby. If this is the case then your container will need to be disposed of by regular means.
4)   Your container is from another state. Machines are programmed to accept only containers from the participating states.         5)   The machine may be out of order, which does happen on an infrequent basis.

Thanks for not littering and recycling your cans and bottles :-)