Bottle and Can Law: Yes Deposit, Yes Return!


The problem of environmental conservation has been gaining increasingly more weight in the global discourse recently, mostly due to the discovery of the detrimental effects that careless waste disposal has on wildlife. For this reason, the introduction of different tools for containing the adverse results of the human effect is strongly needed.

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However, the regulation that allows people to benefit financially from compliance with environmental regulations may lead to citizens searching for the means of bypassing the system and gaining additional profits from cheating. By promoting the bottle and can return law in Colorado, one will be able to reduce the probability of citizens succumbing to the described behavior and, instead, complying with the law by returning only the containers that they have purchased in their home state.


The concept of the bottle and can return law is fairly simple in its design. According to AAAA, the law in question suggests that “(). It is worth mentioning that the bottle and can return law has already been enacted successfully in several states, among them, Oregon (). However, others have not been as successful in applying the principles of the specified regulation; for instance, the law has been repealed in Michigan due to the lack of efficacy (Vetter). Therefore, the application of the bottle and can return regulation requires thoughtful considerations.


The introduction of the bottle and can law will help to address the present environmental concerns in a very direct, uninhibited manner, at the same time reducing the probability of people trying to cheat the system and gain extra money from it in a dishonest way. By placing state-specific marks on the bottles and cans of recyclable containers, the state will be able to ensure that the products submitted as returned ones have not been purchased in other states to use the current environmental regulation as the means of setting an illegal business.

Therefore, the advantages of the regulation in question involve the outcome that it produces, as well as the fact that its introduction into the market will help to draw even more attention to the cause that it is expected to address. Namely, the bottle and can return law will help to raise awareness since the change in the course of actions when consuming the products with plastic containers will make general audiences question the reasons behind the change of the routine actions in dismissing plastic waste. In addition, the direct effect of the bottle and can return law will help to stop the attempts at capitalizing on the existing environmental regulations.


However, the bottle and can return law also poses several problems that may be not as easy to resolve as they might seem at first glance. The potential for running a dishonest business by purchasing bottles and cans in other states and receiving financial rewards for giving them o the Colorado recycling services may turn out to be far too tempting for some citizens. Vetter explains that people may buy “beverages in other states and then redeeming the containers in Michigan for the dime deposit” (Vetter). As the case of Michigan has shown, “paying a lot of money to “out-of-staters” cashing in on the deposits” may result in an economic disaster (Vetter).

In turn, the idea of marking containers with a specific symbol that allows distinguishing between the containers produced in different states will lead to additional problems. First, people may refuse form buying any products from other states that come in plastic containers. Second, since citizens are expected to provide used containers for further recycling, they may argue that the part of the bottle containing the corresponding symbol may have been damaged, hence the absence of any location indicator on the bottle.

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In addition, the need to provide proof to the purchase of bottles in the home state may reduce people’s willingness to save the environment to zero. Once citizens realize that the newly produced law views them as potential criminals endeavoring to break the law and use it for their benefit may undermine the basis of the trust between the state authorities and citizens, causing the latter to perceive the existing environmental standards with a lesser degree of concern. In other words, the creation of additional obstacles toward the safe management of resources may cause people to lose their enthusiasm in contributing to environmental safety.

Therefore, the bottle and can return law may fail in becoming a regulation that people will view as important and that will increase the rates of compliance with environmental policies among the target demographic. Once misrepresented to the target demographic, the bottle and can return regulation will affect how environmental concerns are perceived by the American community. Therefore, the regulation will have to be applied with due caution.

Expected Outcomes

When introduced into the setting of Colorado, the bottle and can law is expected to have a mostly positive effect on the general state of environmental regulations and the extent of compliance with them among citizens. Specifically, Campbell assumes that the regulation will allow “influencing recycling behavior into intrinsic/extrinsic incentives and internal/external facilitators” (p. 101). However, there is the possibility that, in its current form, the bottle and can regulation will produce a negative impact on the state economy since it will most likely lead to people buying only the food produced within the state and having the corresponding signature on bottles and cans.

Thus, the revenues obtained by interstate organizations exporting their products to other states and selling goods across the U.S. will inevitably drop, affecting the state of the U.S. economy significantly. In the long term, the specified outcome of the bottle and can regulation will cause significant economic concerns for the companies that are planning to expand into other states. As Niu explains, “A simple, cross-border model suggests that the tax wedge is stronger than the deposit wedge when per unit prices are high” (1253). Therefore, the economic side of the argument regarding the bottle and can regulation is not to be forgotten when deciding whether it should be implemented in the Colorado environment.

Nonetheless, the bottle and can law is expected to become quite effective in Colorado due to the incentives that participants will receive. While the current standards for promoting recycling and environmental awareness are built primarily on the assumption that people are going to be naturally enthusiastic about participation, the bottle and can law offers financial awards for acting by environmental standards. Therefore, the motivation levels of the target demographic will be sustained consistently. According to Campbell’s assumptions, “BDLs (MRP) will increase recycling rates for aluminum cans and bottled glass” (p. 98).

Although the monetary reward for returning bottles and cans might seem as too low for citizens to be concerned about it, the regulation is expected to work since it introduces a significant incentive for the target audience. At the same time, the bottle and can law will help to reduce the number of cases that involve any kind of cheating. Specifically, citizens will not be able to purchase bottles and cans from other states at a cheaper price to gain their financial reward and, thus, introduce an illegal business into the Colorado setting.

Moreover, the bottle and can law will help to address the problem of unrecyclable plastic and similar materials polluting the environment. From the legal perspective, once the incentive for complying with the law is introduced, the amount of unrecyclable plastic released into the environment will become significantly lesser: “This change in consumer behavior can generate reactions in other economic actors as well” (NIu 1257).

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Therefore, the Colorado authorities should consider introducing the bill into the current legal framework to spur its implementation and integrate the new law both into the business setting and personal life of Colorado residents. Once incentives for following environmentally safe principles are introduced, not only individual citizens but also organizations, including SMEs and large companies, will follow the established standards closely.


By incorporating the bottle and can law into the Colorado legal context, one will be able to increase the extent of compliance with environmental standards among citizens, thus contributing to the conservation of ecosystems. The idea of introducing the bottle and can law into the Colorado legal environment has been lingering on the state’s agenda for a while, yet few steps have been made so far. While some of the examples of the bottle and can law implementation confirm the efficacy of the proposed regulation, the cases observed in other states show that the specified law has serious flaws. However, with the state signature on bottles and cans, as well as other plastic containers, the probability of cheating will be reduced to a minimum.

While the idea of marking containers might be perceived by citizens as the implied mistrust toward them, it will help to restrict the potential for abusing the regulation and at the same time serve as the means of reducing plastic waste.

Works Cited

Campbell, Benjamin, et al. “Crunch the Can or Throw the Bottle? Effect of “Bottle Deposit Laws” and Municipal Recycling Programs.” Resources, Conservation and Recycling, vol. 106, 2016, pp. 98-109.

Niu, Ben J. “Retail Bottle Pricing at the Border: Evidence of Cross-Border Shopping, Fraudulent Redemptions, and Use Tax Evasion.” Journal of Economic Geography, vol. 18, no. 6, 2018, pp. 1253-1283.

Vetter, Ryan. “Michigan Bottle and Can Return Law Struck down by Court.NBC. 2012. Web.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Bottle and Can Law: Yes Deposit, Yes Return!" June 21, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Bottle and Can Law: Yes Deposit, Yes Return'. 21 June.

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