NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

German Consumers Balk at Bottle Deposits

March 7, 2003

A new deposit law on cans and bottles has sharply reduced beverage sales in Germany, just when that country's economy may be on the brink of recession.

  • Since the first of the year, customers have had to pay a deposit of one-quarter to one-half a euro -- about 27 to 54 U.S. cents -- on all carbonated soft drinks as well as beer sold in cans or plastic bottles.
  • That compares to a deposit of only a nickel required in some U.S. states.
  • The wholesaler that handles half of German canned drinks says its sales are off by 20 percent.
  • Makers of cans and bottles are reporting 20 percent to 60 percent drops in their sales.

Beverage industry executives are confounded that Germans seem sufficiently enraged by the new law to give up drinking beer.

The new law was meant to stem the growing popularity of disposable containers. But businesses which accept the returns report growing mountains of bottles and cans because there is no nationwide system in place to handle them.

"For Germany, where recycling is practically a national religion, government regulation is plentiful and planning is prized, the tumult has come as something of a shock," observers report.

Source: Otto Pohl, "Sales Slow as Germans Pile Up Empty Soda Cans," New York Times, March 5, 2003.


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