The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), Sacramento, California, has approved two pilot projects, including mobile takeback and bag-drop collection programs, as the state explores new models to boost consumer access to California Redemption Value (CRV) bottles and cans. According to a news release from CalRecycle, successful projects “could serve as new models for more convenient redemption statewide.”
“California takes consumer redemption convenience very seriously, and these local pilot programs are tailored to address community needs like high rent costs and profit declines due to volatile scrap markets,” says CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa. “The state responded to the sudden closure of 281 recycling centers last August by increasing enforcement and legislating funds for this program to support innovative new redemption options for underserved communities.”
In August 2019, the largest chain of centers in California that offered redemptions for CRV containers, rePlanet, closed, removing about 300 redemption centers from the state’s system. In response to rePlanet’s closure, Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog had called for CalRecycle to require grocery and convenience store chains to begin redeeming bottles and cans.
The Beverage Container Recycling Pilot Program, created by Senate Bill 458 (Wiener, Chapter 648, Statutes of 2017), authorizes CalRecycle to approve up to five pilot projects proposed by local jurisdictions to explore new models for CRV redemption in underserved areas. Assembly Bill 54 (Ting, Chapter 793, Statutes of 2019) made changes to the pilot program to allow for greater flexibility and to provide up to $5 million in funding for approved projects.
Under the criteria prescribed in regulations, CalRecycle has approved the following projects:
San Francisco: San Francisco’s pilot project combines a traditional recycling center site with a bag-drop collection program that will utilize collection bins at various locations throughout the city. Consumers will be able to locate collection bins using their mobile phone, drop their tagged bag of empty beverage containers in the bin and receive electronic payment for their materials within 72 hours after the material is processed. San Francisco currently has 59 unserved convenience zones with 622 CRV beverage retailers operating within those zones.
Culver City, California: Culver City’s pilot project features a mobile redemption center that will rotate between two selected locations six days a week for a total of 43 hours. The city and pilot project recycler may add additional locations in the future. Culver City currently has 16 unserved convenience zones with 90 CRV beverage retailers within those zones.
Pilot project start dates will vary based on the application approval of pilot project recyclers. Once pilot projects start, all convenience zones within the program area will be considered served, relieving CRV retailers of their obligation to either redeem containers in-store or pay a $100-per-day fee.
According to a news release from CalRecycle, the law grants pilot projects more flexible operating requirements compared with traditional certified recyclers. In addition to the two approved projects, CalRecycle can approve and provide funding for three more pilot projects before 2022 for other California communities that want to change CRV redemption models to fit their specific needs.
Approved pilot projects will operate until July 1, 2022, CalRecycle reports in a news release. Jurisdictions interested in applying for one of the three allowable pilot projects left before the approval deadline of Jan. 1, 2022, can find application instructions here.