California plans to invest in CRV program

Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget calls for investing $155 million to expand mobile recycling and reverse vending machine locations.

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A new plan outlined in California Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposed budget could bring Californians an extra $100 million in bonus recycling credits and direct $155 million to expand mobile recycling and reverse vending machine locations for consumers to cash in their bottles and cans under the California Beverage Container Recycling Program, the state's bottle bill. Newsom’s budget proposal would boost redemptions and expand recycling sites using $330 million of surplus unredeemed container deposits, according to a news release issued by CalRecycle.

“This surplus belongs to California consumers, and we want to get that money back in their pockets through bonus recycling credits and more convenient redemption options,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner says. “These targeted investments would create more chances to recycle in areas without recycling centers and offer double California Redemption Value (CRV) refunds to get surplus deposits back to Californians.”

According to CalRecycle, Californians recycled 18.5 billion bottles and cans from July 2020 through June 2021, an increase of roughly 800 million containers from the previous fiscal year. However, sales grew even more during that time as people continued to consume more beverages at home. The new $330 million proposal would use various strategies to reach underserved areas, provide more ways to redeem and offer bonus recycling credits for Californians to cash in their unredeemed bottles and cans:

  • $55 million would be allocated to boost returns in rural and underserved communities with state-funded mobile recycling programs.
  • $100 million would be allocated to add about 2,000 reverse vending machines through grants to high schools, colleges and retailers that are obligated to redeem containers in-store.
  • $100 million would be earmarked to double consumer refunds with bonus recycling credits once new mobile recycling and reverse vending machine programs are in place.
  • $50 million would be used to maximize the quality of recycled beverage containers to help more get recycled into new beverage containers, required by AB 793.
  • $25 million would be set aside for new infrastructure and technology to support redemptions and administration costs.

“Californians want to recycle, and they’re doing their part with the return of 18.5 billion bottles and cans last (fiscal) year. That’s a nearly 70 percent recycling rate,” Wagoner says. “We can get closer to 100 percent recycling by giving Californians more redemption options and new opportunities to succeed.”

Additional details were made available in the administration’s Spring Finance Letters from the Department of Finance. The legislature will have the opportunity to review this proposal and collaborate with the Newsom administration during the ongoing budget enactment process over the coming months.

CalRecycle says maximizing the reuse and recycling of all materials sold in California is vital to the state’s larger effort to build a clean, circular economy in California. On top of creating new redemption opportunities and jobs across the state, the $330 million in investments of surplus container deposits will help California meet its 80 percent beverage container recycling goal and provide clean materials to help reach the state’s recycled glass and plastic minimum content goals.

Consumer Watchdog, the LA-based nonprofit, has voiced its support of the proposals.

“It’s good to see the administration engaging on getting consumers their CRV deposits back and making a big investment in more convenient redemption,” says Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog, in a news release. “This is the people of California’s money, and it’s been appalling to see hundreds of millions of dollars in unredeemed deposits sitting in a bank account collecting dust. The investment in automated technology and creating redemption opportunities in underserved areas will help right this sinking ship. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a bold response by the administration to the bottle deposit crisis.”

Court continues, “We support a limited period of double redemption but urge the administration to focus the double refunds in areas that are recycling deserts. There is a problem with fraud in certain counties with very high redemption rates, like San Benito, where the redemption rate is an impossibly high 106 percent. People in recycling deserts deserve the extra refunds because it is so hard to find a place to recycle. Overall, this is a very positive step, but we want to make sure the money goes into consumers’ hands and not fraudsters’.”

 

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