Recycling Refunds


Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI) is committed to achieving ambitious national recycling rate targets for aluminum beverage cans starting with a 70 percent rate by 2030. While the U.S. aluminum beverage can recycling rate in 2020 was an industry-leading 45 percent, reaching this target will require effective policy solutions, the foremost tool being recycling refund programs, also known as deposit return systems or DRS.

Recycling refund programs play a vital role in raising the aluminum can recycling rate. A national recycling refund system would have significant climate, economic and industry impacts, as detailed in the graphic below based on Reloop research findings. Specific to aluminum, a 90 percent redemption rate in a national recycling refund system would mean an additional 813,000 tons, or 67 billion individual aluminum cans, would be collected and recycled annually.


CMI and The Aluminum Association (AA) have taken the step of co-authoring key elements that the two associations believe will create an efficient, effective recycling refund system. These elements are based on insights gathered over many months from deposit experts from industry, government and non-profit organizations, as well as best practices from programs inside and outside of the United States. CMI and AA will continue to refine these as the associations learn more and dialogue further with key partners.     


A well-designed recycling refund program incorporates these critical elements: 

  • Single entity manages the system with strong government oversight and must meet performance targets
  • Vary the deposit rate based on container size to avoid market-distorting incentives and charge consumers a high enough deposit to catalyze high recycling rates
  • Unredeemed deposits remain within the recycling refunds program for investments in consumer convenience, program efficiency, etc.
  • Ensure a level playing field and higher recycling rates for all beverage containers by including the full range of beverages and all common beverage packaging material types and volumes in the deposit system with only minimal exemptions
  • Easy, convenient, and equitable redemption options for consumers
  • Fees charged to the private sector to pay for the system cost need to vary by material type and accurately reflect each material’s cost of container collection, storage, and processing
  • Use clear labeling anywhere easily seen on the container and technology to reduce fraud 

CMI is advocating for beverage recycling refund programs both at the national and state levels to catalyze the passage and implementation of well-designed beverage recycling refund systems. While a national program based on the elements listed above is the desired outcome, states may be able to implement a recycling refund program more quickly and should consider regional approaches in program design.

Visit for more information on Recycling Refunds.

The following are Opinion Editorials authored by CMI on the importance of deposit systems:


Learn more about deposit programs by visiting: