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Maine Beverage Container Deposit Law And How It Works

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If you live in the state of Maine, you are probably already familiar with the State Beverage Container Deposit Laws and know that you pay a deposit on the beverage container when you make an initial purchase. You may be wondering how the system of deposits and refunds works, as well as what happens to all those returnables.

Who pays a deposit on returnable beverage containers?

The store where you bought your beverage has already paid a deposit on the can or bottle when it was purchased from the distributor. The store then charges you a deposit to recoup their investment. The store does not make any money from your deposit.

How do you get a refund for your deposit?

When you return the beverage container to a bottle and can recycling center, you will be refunded the amount of the deposit. For example, the deposit for wine or liquor bottles is 15 cents, while the deposit on all other beverage containers is 5 cents, states the State Beverage Container Law. The recycling center will pay you the same amount. Some centers offer a bonus of one to two cents to keep you coming back to their center.

How does the recycling center make money from returnables?

The distributor reimburses the recycling center the amount of the deposit plus a handling fee. The handling fee in Maine is 4 cents per container, explains the Bottle Bill Resource Guide. If the recycling center chooses to pay customers more than the 5 cent deposit for returnables brought to the center, the additional amount comes out of the 4 cent handling fee. High-volume recycling centers often make up for offering an additional cent or two on returnables, because it increases their total volume of returnables.

Can you return bottles or cans from another state?

No. Returning beverage containers from another state is against the law. Bottle and cans returned to Maine recycling centers must be purchased in Maine. The penalty for returning beverage containers from another state is $100 per container or $25,000 per transaction according to the Bottle Bill Resource Guide.

How will they know if the beverage containers are from another state?

Anyone who returns more that 2,500 bottles or cans at one time is required to provide their name, address and license plate number, explains the Bottle Bill Resource Guide. This helps the authorities track questionable redemptions. Exceptions are made for fund raising campaigns and bottle drives for organizations.

What do they do with the bottles and cans?

The life cycle of an aluminum beverage can is short. According to The Aluminum Association, it takes as few as 60 days for the soda can you drop off at the recycling center to find its way back into your hands. But not all aluminum cans are made into new soda cans. While the majority of recycled aluminum is used for cans, it can also be used for air plane parts, metal baseball bats and even for building bicycles. Here's the process it goes through to become a new soda can.

  1. Used cans are dropped off at the recycling center.

  2. They are shipped or trucked to the processing center.

  3. Huge machines crush and compact the cans into square bales.

  4. The bales are transported to the manufacturing plant.

  5. The aluminum cans are cleaned with chemicals and shredded.

  6. They are then heated to approximately 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, the aluminum cans melt and become molten aluminum.

  7. Impurities in the molten aluminum rise to the top where they are skimmed off.

  8. The molten aluminum is then poured into molds to form ingots.

  9. The ingots are transported to another processing plant.

  10. The ingots are rolled to form sheets of new aluminum and formed into new soda cans.

  11. The cans are refilled with soda or other beverages.

  12. Filled cans are shipped to stores where they are purchased by consumers, and the cycle begins all over again.

Returning your cans and bottles to the redemption center is a good way to earn a few dollars while protecting the environment, too. The Aluminum Association says that recycling aluminum uses less than ten percent of the energy used to create aluminum from raw ingredients.