MassDEP Hotline - Bottle & Can Deposits & Redemption Centers: 617-556-1054

This fact sheet contains information about the rights and responsibilities of consumers under the Massachusetts beverage container law or "bottle bill," as it is commonly called. The information is excerpted from M.G.L. c.94, s.321-327 and 301 CMR 4.00. Please consult these documents for full text. The law, which took effect on January 6, 1983, has proven effective in controlling litter on roads, parkways, and beaches throughout Massachusetts. Redemption and recycling of beverage containers conserves energy and resources.

What beverages and containers are subject to the law?

Glass, plastic, metal, aluminum and bi-metal containers holding beer and other malt beverages, carbonated soft drinks and mineral waters are subject to the law. Legally, all must carry a deposit label before they are sold.

What beverages and containers are exempt from the law?

Wine, dairy products, natural fruit juices, non-carbonated drinks, and alcoholic beverages other than beer and malt beverages are exempt from the law. Any container(s) greater than two gallons in size also are exempt, regardless of product type.

What is the minimum refund value for containers?

Containers must have a refund value of at least five (5) cents per container. The value may be more on some containers. A dealer (seller) of full containers must redeem empty containers of the type, size and brand of the products sold for their full value (at least five cents). However, a dealer or redemption center may redeem a container of a product of a type, size and brand that they do not sell for less than five cents.

Where can I return empty beverage containers?

Residents can return empty containers to any retail outlet that sells or sold within the past 60 days the same brand, type and size of container or any redemption center that agrees to accept the containers, or any Redemption Center links to PDF file  that agrees to accept the containers. Retail outlets must redeem containers for their full redemption value. Redemption centers can choose which containers they will accept and deduct processing fees from refunds.

Do I need to clean containers before returning them?

Containers must not contain any flowing liquid and must be free of foreign materials such as cigarettes, matches, sticks, papers etc. The retailer cannot require that containers be washed before they are redeemed.

Are beverage containers still redeemable if they are damaged or broken?

Retailers may refuse to redeem a container if it is substantially altered from its original shape. Retailers who take dented cans may return them to distributors for a refund, as long as the cans are easily identifiable and reasonably intact. Redemption Centers links to PDF file may set their own criteria for container acceptance or rejection. Returnable, non-refillable glass bottles may be refused for deposit if they are broken, but not if they are chipped. Reusable, refillable glass bottles may be refused for redemption if they are chipped or in any way not capable of holding liquid. Caps on returnable bottles do not have to be returned to obtain a refund for the bottle.

What obligations do retailers have in accepting containers?

Retailers must redeem empty containers during all of their business hours. There is no similar restriction on redemption centers. Restaurants charging a deposit on containers for off- or on-premise consumption must redeem empty containers. Restaurants do not have to redeem empty containers if they sell beverages for on-premise consumption and do not charge a deposit. Vending machine operators must redeem containers at the location of the vending machine, or post a conspicuous notice on the machine stating where and from whom a refund may be obtained. The notice does not have to specify how close the refund location is to the vending machine. If you encounter a business that is not complying with any of these requirements, you may register a complaint by calling the MassDEP Bottle Bill Hotline at 617-556-1054.

Is there a limit on the number of containers that can be returned at one time?

A retailer is only required to accept 120 containers in one day from any one person, but may choose to accept more. There is no similar restriction on redemption centers.

How must refunds be given?

A retailer must give cash or a cash slip redeemable for cash at the cash register. No credit slips are allowed.

Can deposits be charged on cardboard cases?

The Beverage Container Law does not address this issue. Retailers or distributors may charge a refundable deposit for the cardboard case as they may for any other product so long as they do not violate another state statute or regulation.

Can minors return empty beer containers?

Any package store that allows minors on the premises for any reason such as to buy soda, candy or snacks must redeem empty beer containers from them. If a package store does not allow minors on the premises, it does not have to allow minors to redeem empty containers.

Are there penalties for not complying with the law?

Any person who violates the law may be subject to a civil penalty of not more than one thousand dollars for each violation. The Attorney General and local district attorneys are responsible for enforcing the provisions of the law.

Can out-of-state containers be redeemed?

Any person who attempts to redeem empty beverage containers that he/she knows, or has reason to know, were not originally sold in Massachusetts as filled beverage containers is subject to a civil penalty of the greater of one hundred dollars for each container or twenty-five thousand dollars for each tender of containers.