COVID-19 Response and Bottle Bill Beverage Container Redemption

Fact Sheet - March 31, 2020; Revised April 30, 2020

The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) previously issued a press release on March 16, 2020 noting that it would be temporarily exercising “enforcement discretion” toward redemption of deposit containers at retailers that sell beverages subject to Connecticut’s bottle bill program. This press release noted that this “temporary action will be in place through March 31, 2020, subject to possible extension in consultation with public health officials.”  Please refer to DEEP’s website, or the response below for notice regarding the termination of DEEP enforcement discretion.

Some of the questions that DEEP has been receiving regarding the CT bottle bill program since COVID-19-related restrictions have gone into place earlier this month follow.

Q: Are redemption centers considered “essential businesses”? 

A: Yes, per Governor Lamont’s Executive Order 7H, independent redemption centers are an essential service to manage valuable material kept separate from the waste stream, producing high quality and readily marketable recycled feedstock which are relied upon by the manufacturing industry.  

Q: Does Executive Order 7H supersede DEEP’s announced “enforcement discretion” with regard to container redemption requirements of the CT bottle bill program at retail locations?  When will this temporary suspension end? 

A: No, it does not.  DEEP’s temporary suspension of enforcement actions against Connecticut retailers still stands, and the current date set for the enforcement discretion to end is May 20, 2020.

Executive Order 7H includes "trash and recycling collection, hauling, and processing" as an essential service and allows these services to continue operating. Independent redemptions centers play an important role in recycling through the Connecticut's bottle bill program and are included in the recycling sector noted in Executive Order 7H. Connecticut’s bottle bill program is an integral part of the State's Comprehensive Materials Management Strategy (CMMS) - required by CGS Sec 22a-228b & implemented per CGS 22a-229.

Retailers that opt to continue offering redemption services should also continue to use standard procedures for safe handling of returned containers.  This includes use of appropriate gloves and any protective clothing normally employed, and shall be consistent with Executive Order 7V establishing standards for safe workplaces in essential business requiring additional protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.  Proper hand hygiene should always be employed.

Note that the current date for the enforcement discretion to end may change depending on the status of the COVID-19 response.  DEEP is in communication with the governor’s office and we are monitoring the evolving COVID-19 outbreak response.

Q: Why have grocery stores closed their bottle redemption services? Why did DEEP suspend enforcement of the bottle bill? What does "suspend enforcement" mean - is the bottle bill suspended?

A: Many grocery stores and supermarkets have indicated difficulties managing the need to restock food shelves and maintain their stores in addition to managing their on-site redemption and collection areas.  DEEP issued an “enforcement discretion” notice, temporarily suspending enforcement of retailers (including supermarkets and grocery stores) who opt to temporarily close their on-site redemption areas so that the stores may focus on keeping their stores clean and keeping shelves stocked with supplies.  

It is expected that as shortages of staffing/resources are addressed by retailers (including supermarkets and grocery stores), bottle redemption services will resume at those locations.  Redemption of deposit containers is still permissible for all retailers who sell beverages that are subject to Connecticut’s bottle bill program.

The law known as the bottle-bill has not been suspended by the state.  The state has temporarily suspended enforcing the requirement to take back deposit bottles and cans that a retail location sells so that those retailers may focus their efforts towards ensuring their shelves are stocked for shoppers during this crisis.

Q: Are wholesalers and distributors required to pick up deposit containers after they have been redeemed? 

A: Yes.  The “enforcement discretion” announced by DEEP only applies to retailers at which deposit container redemption take place. 

Q: Are there health concerns regarding the handling of empty beverage containers in the bottle redemption supply chain? Are redeemable containers at a risk for spread of coronavirus?

A: The Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) believes that the risk of transmission from handling bottles is low and that the greatest risk of transmission is from person-to-person interaction. DPH recommends that social distancing take place at redemption centers for both staff and visitors who drop off empty containers. The bottle redemption supply chain shall also comply with the standards established by Executive Order 7V for safe workplaces in essential business to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

DPH also recommends that persons handling beverage containers in a redemption center continue to follow OSHA guidance.  OSHA recommends that anyone working to collect containers at a redemption center facility wear nitrile gloves when in the process of redeeming deposit containers.  Such personal protection equipment is expected to be protective against COVID-19 coronavirus.  If the redemption center cannot provide nitrile gloves to staff, then DPH advises them to cease operations until adequate protective measures are available.  For additional information, please refer to this OSHA webpage: 

Q: How can consumers safely return their empty deposit containers?  What should I do with my containers if I cannot redeem them now? 

A: As a consumer, first confirm that the point of redemption that you would like to use is currently open.  At all times, ensure that empty beverage containers are rinsed and emptied of any liquids.   

Follow the general safety, hygiene and social distancing guidance provided by the Department of Public Health and/or Centers for Disease Control when you leave your home (e.g., frequently wash hands, cover and do not touch your face, allow adequate spacing between people, etc.).    

If your redemption location is temporarily closed, for now you can hold on to your deposit containers until you can get to a redemption center or until your local retailers reopen their redemption rooms.  If that is not convenient, you can put those containers in your recycling bin for routine recyclables collection.  Deposit containers (i.e. metal and glass beverage containers) are required to be recycled in Connecticut and cannot legally be thrown away as solid waste/household trash.

Redemption centers may be establishing practices that include CDC and CT DPH social distancing recommendations and limiting the number of customers in the building. If your usual redemption area isn’t open, please consider taking your containers to another redemption center.  A list of independent redemption facilities in Connecticut can be found at:

Q: What are social distancing practices that I can use to keep myself/store workers safe when I redeem containers?

A: Make sure you follow the DPH and CDC guidance for social distancing. If your local redemption location is at a grocery store or retailer that provides automated reverse vending machines that are located in a separate room, please adhere to the DPH and CDC social distancing guidelines and limit the occupancy to one customer at a time.

Q: What is the bottle bill? Why is it important?

A: The bottle bill was originally conceived as a litter prevention measure.  Giving the containers a redemption value means that containers that are left in public parks, beaches or along roadsides are often picked up by people who collect them for their refund value.  Over the last several years the law has been expanded to include additional beverages and containers.  It is an important component to maintaining Connecticut’s environment and ensure protection of its natural resources.
For more information, please use the following link:

Content Last Updated 5/1/2020