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Illegal to reuse bottles ?


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I've heard that it's illegal to reuse bottles. The only info I've found so far is posted below. Does anyone know if it is illegal to refill bottles that are returned to your distillery?

Refilling, Reusing and Disposing of Liquor Bottles

6. Refilling, Reusing and Disposing of Liquor Bottles


a. Refilling or reusing liquor bottles - Any retail dealer, or agent or employee of such dealer, who refills any liquor bottle with distilled spirits, or who reuses any liquor bottle by adding distilled spirits or any substance (including water) to the original contents is subject to a fine of not more than $1000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.

b. Disposition of liquor bottle - The possession of used liquor bottles by any person other than the one who emptied the contents thereof is prohibited, except that this prohibition shall not:

(1) prevent the owner or occupant of any premises on which such bottles have been lawfully emptied from assembling the same on such premises

(i) for delivery to a bottler or importer on specific request for such bottler or importer;

(ii) for destruction either on the premises on which the bottles are emptied or elsewhere, including disposition for purposes which will result in the bottles being rendered unusable as bottles; or

(iii) in the case of unusual or distinctive bottles, for disposition as collectors' items or for other purposes not involving the packaging of any products for sale;

(2) prevent any person from possessing, offering for sale, or selling such unusual or distinctive bottles for purposes not involving the packaging of any product for sale; or

(3) prevent any person from assembling used liquor bottles for the purpose of recycling or reclaiming the glass or other approved liquor bottle material.

Any person possessing liquor bottles in violation of law or regulations is subject to a fine of not more that $1000, imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both.

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Hey Steven. I'm pretty sure the prohibition on re-using bottles only applies after retail to prevent people re-filling bottles with spirits other than the label reflects.

If one wanted to clean and re-use bottles that hadn't left the distillery, I'm not aware of anything that would prohibit it.

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I agree, I think it applies to retailers.

In addition to what you found here is something local to Colorado. I can't see them passing a law in direct conflict with the TTB (although it wouldn't be a surprise).

Regulation 47-904. Product Labeling, Substitution, Sampling and Analysis.

C. Excepting manufacturers, no licensee shall refill or permit the refilling of any

alcohol beverage container with alcohol beverage or reuse any such container by

adding distilled spirits or any substance, including water, to the original contents or

any portion of such original contents. There shall be no prohibition against the use

of carafes, pitchers or similar serving containers.

Hope it helps in Seattle.

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Several years ago I was told by a TTB rep. that it is illegal to reuse bottles once they have left the bonded premises. The reason is that this is an excellent audit trail. I seem to recall seeing language reflecting this in the CFR, but that was years ago and after a cursory search tonight can't seem to find it. If you plan to recollect bottles I'd make sure the TTB is ok with this.

Edit- found this...

§ 19.634 Receipt and storage of liquor bottles.

No proprietor shall accept shipment or delivery of liquor bottles except from the manufacturer thereof, a supplier abroad, or another proprietor. However, the appropriate TTB officer may, pursuant to letterhead application, authorize a proprietor to receive and reuse liquor bottles assembled for such proprietor as provided in 27 CFR 31.263. Liquorbottles, including those of less than 200 ml capacity, shall be stored in a safe and secure place, either on the proprietor's qualified premises or at another location.

Am I nuts? I can't find 31.263 in the online GPO version of Part 27!!!

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No large us bottlers, PBC, coke, cott, refill bottles in the us period.

I am pretty sure they do refils by the mfg in some other countries though like Mexico.

I've heard that in the usa refilling beverage bottles is a safety concern, both contamination and fatigue in the glass, at least that's the carbonated beverage and juice excuse.

Granted we used to have milk delivered in refilled glass bottles, so there are obviously exceptions.

Certainly worth having clarified by the TTB, to be sure.

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Interesting typo you found Guy. If you go back to the older versions, you will find that in 1998, the citation was 27cfr194.263

'Liqour Dealers' is now 27CFR31 and the paragraph moved from 263 to 203.

There used to be a wine bottle reconditioning service in California. I don't know if they still exist - or work with specialty glass.

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Thanks Guy.

This should be a clear yes or no. Under proper protocal, can we reuse bottles? It is not efficient for "Big Al"cohol to do this. But we could benefit.

I have heard many things regarding this subject. Including that it is not the glass (Bottle fatigue?) but the remainder of the capseal that is illegle to remove, thus the tracking. left over from the tax stamp days. Although a "No" is the usual knee jerk answer. But we could be considered a bit earth friendly if we could reuse. So, I think this is a good example where the TTB could be contacted for an opinion. Does ADI or Bill Owens (now in Europe,Italy, I think. Hi Bill) have a pipeline for these items? I know we all have a lot to do, or have TTB chirp in on it. Being a bit paranoid, I think they are reading this right now!

Cheers, Bob

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I got an email back this morning from the TTB. It is legal; one just has to file the paperwork to the labeling division.


Bottle washing and reuse programs are encouraged by the goverment for manufacturers; it would be illegal to refill any product, whether alcohol or not, by anyone other than the original manufacturer. With the cost of premium bottles, it is certainly worth investigating. There are some known caveats that I can share for those who wish to investigate. First, pressure-sensitive labels for glass are very hard to remove with convention washing systems. Wet glue paper labels are the standard for but are more commonly used on beer bottles. Direct printing on the bottles is a viable alternative but you would need to stick with good old ceramic inks (newer organic and UV cured inks won't stand-up to multiple washings). Because of the move away from heavy-metals in printing inks, ceramics inks do not provide the color range that organics do but if you were to go down this road I am sure a little compromise on color would be worth it. We print with ceramic, organic and UV-cured inks, which system we use depends on the project. We have not done any bottles for reuse yet but if anyone is interested in pursuing feel free to give me a call at 201-569-1900 x.103.


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