Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration this month announced a proposal to increase consumer recycling of cans and bottles by temporarily doubling the refund amount from 5 cents for a 12-ounce container to one cent.
The plan would attempt to not only increase the recycling rate for bottles and cans from 70% to 80%, but also reduce the $600 million raised by California in sales of recyclable beverage containers during the pandemic.
Here’s what this plan would mean for Californians.
How did this recycling plan come about? Why now?
While Californians recycled 800 million more containers from July 2020 to June 2021 than in the previous fiscal year, sales of bottles and cans still eclipsed those repurchased, reaching 27 billion on the same period.
That left the state with a $600 million surplus in unclaimed deposits.
According to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle, this is due to increased purchases of canned and bottled beverages during the pandemic, when many restaurants and eateries closed.
Governor Newsom’s plan would use $330 million of that surplus to incentivize and stimulate the recycling of those containers for an indefinite period.
What would the plan look like?
The money would go towards expanding recycling programs for specific communities, installing more reverse vending machines and strategies to double consumer refunds.
Here is the breakdown of overspending.
- $100 million for 2,000 new reverse vending machines, which are used to collect bottles, cans and other items in exchange for cash. You would see them in high schools, colleges, and stores that are required to buy back in-store recyclable containers.
- $100 million in bonus recycling credits from installing mobile recycling programs and expanding reverse vending machines in hopes of doubling consumer refunds.
- $55 million for mobile recycling programs targeting rural and underserved communities.
- $50 million to improve the quality of cans and bottles to turn more of them into new containers.
- $25 million for technology and infrastructure that would increase administration costs.
If approved, the plan will be rolled out in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
What are the objectives ?
The proposal is intended to meet the environmental and economic requirements of the State.
Californians returned 18.5 billion cans and bottles in the last fiscal year, a recycling rate of 70%.
The plan aims to achieve a recycling goal of achieving 80% returns and “providing clean materials to help meet the state’s minimum recycled glass and plastic content goals,” according to CalRecycle.
CalRecycle also says expanding the programs included in the proposal would create more green jobs and bring green industries to communities.
Where does California stand in terms of national recycling?
Having recycled more than 445 billion cans and bottles since 1986 with the introduction of the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, California continues to be a national leader in recycling and conservation.
However, other states are leading the charge in other areas, such as Oregon and Michigan, which already reimburse consumers 10 cents for beverage containers.
California’s ambitious recycling goals persist, however, with efforts like Assembly Bill 793 that sets a standard for recycled content in plastic beverage containers.
The law requires this recycled content to reach 15% by January 1, 2022, 25% by 2025 and 50% by 2030.