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CVS to install reverse vending machines

The drug store chain will add 20 units where CRV beverage containers can be redeemed in underserved areas of California.

March 1, 2022

CVS Health Corp. and CalRecycle have signed an agreement under which the pharmacy chain will install 20 reverse vending machines at its stores in unserved areas of the state, enabling Californians to redeem California Redemption Value, or CRV, beverage containers. CVS also will pay CalRecycle a settlement of $1 million in restitution for disputed back fees for bottle and can redemption obligations.

In addition to providing places for more Californians to redeem their CRV fees, this five-year pilot project will give CalRecycle data to analyze the potential for widespread use of reverse vending machines throughout the state, the agency says. RePlanet LLC of Ontario, California, used reverse vending machines but closed its network of 284 recycling centers and processing facilities and terminated its 750-person workforce in 2019.

In 2021, grocery chain Safeway began adding reverse vending machines in the Bay area. Lise Murphy with Olyns, a reverse vending machine manufacturer based in California, says four Safeway stores in Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara and Milpitas are using reverse vending machines supplied by Olyns after a pilot at the Sunnyvale store in 2021 in partnership with PepsiCo. 

CVS agreed to install the machines within one year and to operate them for all open store hours, according to a news release from CalRecycle.

“We appreciate CVS’ willingness to participate in this landmark agreement, partnering with CalRecycle to invest in innovations that will help California communities redeem and recycle their bottles and cans,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner says. “Instead of simply settling a penalty for disputed compliance issues, the company is working with us to help modernize this important recycling program.”

“We’re committed to minimizing our CVS Pharmacy stores’ environmental footprint and contributing to healthier, more sustainable communities,” Maureen Cormier, division vice president of CVS Pharmacy, says. “We’re continuously working with our stores that participate in the in-store California Refund Value program to ensure that eligible recyclable containers are accepted and refunds are provided. In addition, we look forward to working with CalRecycle on the reverse vending machine initiative as  well as other innovative new ways to ensure communities have accessible and convenient ways to recycle.”

Under the state's CRV recycling law, retailers in defined zones without a recycling center must refund the 5- or 10-cent fee on CRV containers in-store or pay $100 per day.

*This article was updated March 4 to include information about the Safeway stores' Olyns units. CalRecycle originally said that reverse vending machines last operated in the state in 2019.