Uncapping the Pros and Cons of a Bottle Deposit Program: Will a Beverage-Container Deposit Program Reduce Litter in Maryland? And At What Cost?

February 2012 / Abell-Supported Research / Community Development

An examination of this issue—along with potential impacts on recycling rates, employment, beverage sales, and greenhouse gas emissions.

In October 2011, the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the University of Maryland was asked to investigate the feasibility of a beverage container deposit program in the state of Maryland. The objective of the study is to quantify a beverage container deposit program’s contribution to Maryland’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and stormwater related trash. In addition, the EFC project team was asked to determine what monies might be available to the state as a result of unredeemed beverage container deposits.

Beverage container deposit programs currently exist in ten states across the country and are under consideration in several others. The unique nature of disposable beverage containers provides the opportunity to use a fee-based system to incentivize the proper handling and disposal of these items. Though virtually all of the existing programs have been successful at achieving their stated goals, deposit programs remain highly controversial and are vigorously challenged by a number of industry groups. Our goal was not to advocate either for or against these deposit systems, but rather to inform decision-making within the state of Maryland as it considers legislation in the future.