Container Recycling Institute says beverage container recycling and sales increase in California

Overall beverage container recycling continues to hold steady at more than 80 percent in California.

December 21, 2015

Newly released data from CalRecycle show the number of California beverage containers sold and recycled increased from fiscal year 2011 to 2015, according to a recent analysis of the data by the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), a Culver City, California-based nonprofit.

Furthermore, the CalRecycle data show the overall beverage container recycling rate has held roughly steady for the last five years at around 82 percent, CRI says.

“It’s important to celebrate California’s success in recycling over 80 percent of beverage containers: which is more than twice the national rate of 39 percent,” says Susan V. Collins, CRI president. “If the entire country had a container deposit system, we could achieve an 80-percent recycling rate for beverage containers nationwide.”

Collins says two out of every 11 beverage containers recycled in the United States are recycled in California.

According to CRI’s analysis, overall sales of CRV (California Redemption Value) containers grew by 2.2 billion units from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2015: an 11 percent increase. The number of containers recycled topped 18 billion in California in fiscal year 2014/15, an increase of 1.7 billion since fiscal year 2011, CRI reports.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles saw the biggest recycling rate increase, growing from 66 percent in fiscal year 2011 to 75 percent in fiscal year 2015, CRI says. “This is an important increase because PET bottles now comprise 47 percent of the beverage market: up from 41 percent five years ago,” the nonprofit notes.

Aluminum cans have consistently had the highest recycling rate of all deposit containers and continue to do so, fluctuating between 95 percent and 97 percent, CRI says.

HDPE (high-density polyethylene) recycling fell from 95 percent to 73 percent, though some intermediate years had periods of over-redemption, CRI says. HDPE sales comprise only 1 percent of the total beverage market.

Glass recycling fell by 11 percentage points from 85 percent to 74 percent.

HDPE and glass recycling rates likely have declined as a result of the elimination of the “commingled rate,” a practice whereby non-CRV containers, such as HDPE milk jugs, wine and spirit bottles, were recycled in the same loads with CRV containers, CRI speculates.

“The good news here is that CalRecycle has done a good job of enforcement to make sure that state redemption centers are participating in the program correctly,” Collins says.

The five-year sales increase makes strong recycling rates key to keeping up with the growth of waste being produced, Collins says, but clearly shows the continuation of robust economic activity.

PET beverage bottle sales grew from 8.4 billion to 10.6 billion units, or 27 percent, during that period, fueled by the growth in bottled water packaged in PET.

Glass bottle sales also grew by 13 percent in light of new-age beverage sales growth, though they constitute less than one-third of the amount of PET bottles sold.

During the five-year period, aluminum can and HDPE bottle sales declined by 5 percent and 19 percent, respectively. While aluminum can sales are likely to continue to be negatively affected by declines in sales of soda, beer can sales remain strong, and energy drink can sales are growing.

CalRecycle’s data is available here. CRI also drew upon some older reports from CalRecycle’s archives for its five-year analysis.