South Lake Tahoe Should Promote Recycling, Not Ban Plastic Water Bottles (Opinion)

For those who think our society should be doing more to recycle plastic bottles, a concerning issue is growing in the city of South Lake Tahoe. Rather than encouraging more recycling through education and making collection easier with convenient recycling bins and redemption centers, South Lake Tahoe is seeking to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles that are less than one. gallon.

Why is this of concern? According Cal Recycle (the division of the California Resources Agency that handles the bottle bill) California currently has a plastic bottle recycling rate of about 70%. It’s pretty good, but it could be a lot better with very little effort. Unfortunately, while the ban will have a minimal effect on the total number of plastic bottles consumed, it sends clear and discouraging messages that could likely drive down the recycling rate.

Such a ban signals a total lack of interest in recycling. In fact, the ban suggests the city has lost faith in the recycling process and in people’s willingness to participate. They basically say, “We don’t care about recycling, nor do we feel the need to encourage or assist recycling and, therefore, we won’t allow anyone to buy bottled water. , even though the bottles are 100% recyclable.”

Many people don’t realize that California has a bottle bill. This means that consumers pay a penny (or penny for large bottles) for each drink sold in aluminum cans, glass bottles or plastic bottles. About 70% of California’s plastic water bottles are traded in for recycling by returning those nickels and dimes to consumers (or sidewalk operators). These are some of the highest recycling numbers in the country, but they have to be much higher. Part of the reason the buyback rate isn’t higher is that too many consumers don’t know the bottles are recyclable (and recycled), or that it’s too complicated to buy them back.

Not only are almost all plastic beverage containers 100% recyclable, many of them are turned into new bottles. Some are made into other products like plastic shells or other types of food containers.

The recycling industry has grown significantly in California and across the country. Recyclers have worked with bottle manufacturers for decades to encourage best practices in bottle manufacturing to ensure bottles are as easy as possible to recycle. New technologies have made recycling simpler and more efficient, but there has been a huge chicken-and-egg dilemma. Building a hundred million dollar recycling plant is meaningless without a large stream of bottles to be recycled. The six recycling plants currently operating in California all need more used plastic bottles to stay in business and hopefully grow.

Recently passed legislation in California (AB 793) states that by 2030, all plastic bottles must contain at least 50% recycled content. This legislation has been supported by virtually every environmental group in California, as well as bottle and beverage manufacturers and, of course, the recycling industry. The mandate means that the demand for used plastic bottles is higher than ever.

A token ban on 100% recyclable plastic water bottles does nothing to help meet that demand, it does nothing to educate consumers about recycling and it does nothing to capture more bottles so we can increase the recycling rate as close to 100% as possible. . California Beverage Container Recycling Works! And eliminating the sale of water in plastic bottles will deprive people of the choice of water, leaving only sodas or other sugary drinks available. Consumers should have the right to choose to make this purchase, not the five members of the city council.

What cities like South Lake Tahoe can do to make a difference is encourage refund centers so people have safe, clean, and convenient places to return their bottles for a refund. Many redemption center operators feel suffocated by cities that put too much bureaucracy in their path. Cities can also increase the number of recycling bins in high traffic areas. Of course, setting up an information campaign to inform people of the importance of recycling can also help.

It’s good that elected members of the South Lake Tahoe City Council are taking plastic waste reduction seriously. It’s a good thing that beverage bottles are 100% recyclable, that the recycling industry in California is growing, and that the State of California has a system that promotes a closed-loop circular economy approach to recycling of plastic bottles. It would be great if South Lake Tahoe could look for ways to contribute to all of this good, rather than pretending it doesn’t exist.

Please recycle.

Plastic Recycling Corporation of California is a non-profit organization established in California in 1987 to promote the recovery and recycling of PET beverage containers. Its members include manufacturers of PET bottles and producers of soft drinks, bottled water and other CRV beverages serving California consumers.