Deposit, Return, Recycle

Several terms are used to describe the various activities related to processing bottles and cans. This small glossary will help you make sense of it all.


A recovery method based on the temporary collection of a deposit when a container is sold. This deposit is refundable to encourage consumers to return the container so that it can be recovered and recycled. A deposit costs the person returning a container nothing. Only people who choose to throw away their containers pay the price. In Quebec, we pay deposits on beer and soft drink cans made of aluminum, as well as soft drink bottles made of glass or plastic. The deposit ensures that containers brought back to merchants are 100% recycled.


A system implemented by soft drink bottlers and brewers to retrieve all the containers returned to stores. This activity is governed by an agreement with Boissons Gazeuses Environnement and Recyc-Québec.


Treating recovered materials, i.e. reclaiming or transforming (shredding, bundling, grinding, etc.) the materials for recycling or conversion.


Using recovered materials in place of raw materials in a manufacturing process. Consumers do not recycle their containers themselves, but give them to companies to handle.

Collection bin or box

Receptacles for returnable containers only. They can be found in stores, businesses and public places. Collection boxes are distributed by Consignaction and its partners.

Recycling bins or boxes

A receptacle to hold non-returnable containers, glass, plastic and metal packaging and paper and cardboard for selective collection.

Materials Recovery Facility or MRF

Business that separates residual materials, particularly recyclable materials, from curbside recycling.

Curbside recycling

Recovery method to collect residual materials such as paper, cardboard, glass, plastic and metal, to facilitate recycling and conversion.

Non-refillable containers

A container with characteristics and properties that make it impossible to reuse for the same purpose for which it was originally designed. These are the only containers that are part of the public refundable deposit system at this time. Non-refillable containers become part of the deposit-return program according to the law and must be marked “Consignée Québec Refund” with the value of the deposit. They are usually made of plastic, aluminum or glass. They can also be made of metal.

Reusable containers

A container with characteristics and properties that make it possible to reuse at least 10 times for the same purpose for which it was originally designed. They are subject to a private deposit-refund agreement (between the distributor and retailers) and therefore, do not bear the words “Consignée Québec Refund.” All reusable containers are glass bottles and the vast majority are beer or cooler containers.

Reverse vending machines

Automated recovery devices for deposit-return cans and plastic bottles, usually found at the entrance to supermarkets. They make it easy to return containers to stores and crush the containers to save space.


A generic term encompassing all techniques, other than re-use or recycling, that give value to residual materials so they won’t be thrown out. For example, incinerating materials to generate energy.