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Mixed results after 3 months of CT’s updated bottle redemption program

CT’s new bottle deposit law went into effect January 1, increasing redemption rates from 5 cents to 10 cents for eligible containers.
Michael Dwyer
CT’s new bottle deposit law went into effect January 1, increasing redemption rates from 5 cents to 10 cents for eligible containers.

A Connecticut law doubled container redemption values as 2024 began, but early data on the returns don’t yet show a clear impact on the state.

Under the updated “bottle bill” law, the deposit and redemption value of certain beverage containers purchased and returned in Connecticut is now 10 cents, instead of five. The over 40-year policy, which was updated on Jan. 1, was originally crafted to help incentivize more recycling and reduce litter.

Chris Nelson, an environmental analyst at the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP), said the first three months of available data “arguably shows an increase” in the rate of bottle returns, but he had thought even more bottles would have been returned.

Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and New York are among the 10 states with similar “bottle bills.” According to DEEP, states without such policies tend to have lower recycling rates.

Long-term trends show more drink containers are returned in warmer months, he said.

“That's kind of what I'm expecting. And actually, if for some reason, it's not a significant jump, I think that will be more surprising to me than if there is one,” Nelson explained.

Nelson said the lower than expected rate of return could have to do with a lag in reporting or the 10 cent deposit taking a little while to take effect in some places. He wants to see the numbers for April through June before drawing any concrete conclusions about policy’s impact on Connecticut.

But especially high returns might indicate cross border fraud where individuals, theoretically, collect bottles from other states and import them into Connecticut to collect a higher reward. This scheme was satirized in a 1996 episode of Seinfeld. A new state law hopes to address that possibility but it’s a rule that would be difficult to enforce, Nelson said.

Only certain empty, clean containers made of metal, plastic or glass are eligible for redemption — such as beer, carbonated drinks, sports drinks, juice and more. Size is also a factor: only drink containers between 150 milliliters and 2.5 liters can be returned.

Beverages like wine, spirits, milk cartons, among others, aren’t eligible. Plastic nip liquor bottles also can’t be redeemed but have a five cent surcharge which goes back to municipalities.

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