A study released by the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) and Reloop has found no definitive evidence that new or expanded beverage container deposit return systems (DRS, or ‘bottle bills’) alone impact beverage sales – suggesting beverage industry concerns that deposit systems lead to sales declines are unfounded.
The study by the two nonprofit organizations, titled “The Impact of Deposit Return Systems on Beverage Sales”, uses data from nearly a dozen DRS markets across the globe before and after the systems were introduced or expanded, or the deposit amount was increased.
None of the case studies provided definitive evidence suggesting that the introduction or expansion of a DRS caused a decline in beverage sales. Fluctuations in sales observed across the case studies were within the normal variation range and aligned with regional trends.
Many complex and multifaceted factors contribute to changes in beverage sales, meaning any sales increases or decreases cannot only be attributed to deposit return systems.
“The research we conducted in this study is as complete, thorough and transparent as possible, and represents experiences from all over the world over a two-decade timeframe,” said CRI president Susan Collins. “We believe the findings should set to rest the fears of beverage producers and distributors and contribute to a more informed discourse on the adoption, implementation and expansion of beverage container deposit return systems.”
Collins, and Reloop CEO Clarissa Morawski said decades of data show that DRS significantly increase container recycling rates – a key to addressing our plastic pollution, marine debris and climate crises. In addition, given the passage of recycled content mandates in certain jurisdictions, and international brands’ stated plastics reduction targets, DRS offer the most effective means to obtain more clean, high-quality materials for manufacturing new products.
Morawski noted, “While producers often battle the introduction of deposit return systems because they wrongly believe they have a negative effect on sales, their impact assessments ignore the huge financial and compliance benefits of getting back up to 90% of their containers for closed-loop recycling.”
Collins and Morawski also said the beverage industry overlooks important considerations when it claims that DRS create higher costs across the distribution chain.
The costs associated with operating modernized deposit programs are at least partially offset by the revenue generated from the sale of empty beverage containers as scrap, along with unclaimed deposits. Also, significant savings result from DRS implementation, such as reduced extended producer responsibility expenses for producers (in Europe and Canada) and lower costs for municipalities and taxpayers (due to decreased municipal recycling, disposal and litter cleanup expenditures).
According to Reloop and CRI, the study’s findings emphasize the need for a comprehensive understanding of the complex interplay of factors affecting beverage sales, as well as the cautious interpretation of claims regarding the influence of DRS implementation.
“Adoption of beverage container deposit return systems is increasing rapidly across the globe to support a more circular economy, but we need more progress in the U.S.,” said Collins and Morawski.
“We hope these study results reduce beverage industry resistance to DRS, enabling the introduction and expansion of programs that can get more recycled material into the supply chain while reducing litter, marine debris, energy use and carbon emissions.”