California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Beverage Container Retailers/Dealers

Convenience Zones

 

What Is a Convenience Zone?

A convenience zone is typically a half-mile radius circle with the center point originating at a supermarket that meets the following definitions based on PRC 14509.4 and PRC 14562.5:

  • Supermarket is identified in the Progressive Grocer Marketing Guidebook.
  • Supermarket gross annual sales are $2 million or more.
  • Supermarket is considered a “full-line” store that sells a line of dry groceries, canned goods, or non-food items and perishable items.

Can a Convenience Zone Be Larger Than a Half Mile?

Senate Bill 607 provides that as of January 1, 2004, an interested person may petition the Department to request that a convenience zone, which is both (1) located in a rural region, and (2) would include within its expanded radius, only one recycling center that is not within any other zone.

In addition, Assembly Bill 3056 provides that as of January 1, 2007, an interested person may petition the Department that a three-mile convenience zone be created in a rural region when there are at least two dealers within three miles of a singular recycling center, and where the dealers are a mile or less apart and have an aggregate sales volume of at least $2 million gross annual sales. The dealer located closest to the recycling center defines the center point of the zone.

A "rural region" is identified pursuant to subparagraph (A) of paragraph (2) of subdivision (b) of Section 14571 of the Act.

How Do Three-Mile Expanded Zones in Rural Regions Work?

Three-mile expanded convenience zones are uncommon since there are only a few instances where all of the necessary criteria exist. There are two ways by which three-mile expanded convenience zones in rural regions can be created:

  1. Supermarket-Based Expanded Zone
    • An interested person must petition the Division to have the zone expanded
    • There can be only one recycling center located in the expanded zone
    • If there are multiple zones, only one zone needs to be expanded to encompass the singular recycling center
    • The expanded zone shall not overlap with a non-rural region that may be located in close proximity to a recycling center in a rural region.
    • The expansion of the zone is not permanent. If another recycling center opens up within the three-mile radius, or if map updates indicate that the area is no longer rural, the zone shall be returned to the original half-mile radius.
  2. Dealer Aggregate Expanded Zone
    • An interested person must petition the Division to have the zone expanded
    • There can be only one recycling center located in the expanded zone
    • There must be at least two dealers within three miles of the rural region recycling center, and these dealers must be within a mile of each other. The aggregate sales volume of the qualifying dealers must be at least $2 million gross annual sales.
    • The dealer closest to the recycling center will be designated as the center point of the expanded zone
    • The expanded zone shall not overlap with a non-rural area or another convenience zone
    • The expansion of the zone is not permanent. If another recycling center opens up within the three-mile radius, or if a new convenience zone opens up within the expanded zone, or if map updates indicate that the area is no longer rural, the zone shall be returned to the original half-mile radius.

What Do Convenience Zones Provide?

Convenience zones increase the geographic dispersal of locations where beverage containers can be redeemed. A convenience zone is required by law to have within the zone’s boundaries, a recycling center that redeems all California Redemption Value (CRV) containers. A convenience zone with a recycler inside its boundaries is considered a served zone. Convenience zone recyclers provide opportunities to redeem containers near where beverages were purchased.

How Are Convenience Zones Identified, and When Are They Activated?

The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) receives data from the Progressive Grocer Marketing Guide each month during a calendar year. As potential supermarkets are identified, staff performs surveys to determine the physical location for public maps, and to determine if the business meets the mandated definition of a supermarket.

New convenience zones are activated on the first business day of each calendar year. The Department sends a certified letter to each supermarket identified as a convenience zone as follows:

  • That the supermarket was identified in the Progressive Grocer Marketing Guide as a supermarket, and is scheduled for activation as a convenience zone on January 1st, and as a courtesy, on July 1st.
  • That the convenience zone will be required to have a recycling center within its boundaries.

Why Do Some Supermarkets Not Create Convenience Zones?

While most major supermarkets do create convenience zones, the Department may for one or more of the following reasons, not recognize some supermarkets as convenience zones based on PRC 14526.5.

  • The supermarket was not identified in Progressive Grocer Marketing Guidebook.
  • CalRecycle furnishes a form “Declaration of Less than Two-Million Gross Annual Sales” to an owner, manager or corporate entity. If the owner, manager, or corporate entity can demonstrate an annual gross sales average of less than $2 million, that convenience zone may be deactivated.
  • Supermarket missed cut-off date in the fall of a given year for activation in January. Typically, such supermarkets are activated as convenience zones the following January.

What Happens if the Supermarket That Creates a Convenience Zone Closes, and Can a Deactivated Convenience Zone Become Reactivated?

CalRecycle will deactivate a convenience zone if the supermarket creating the convenience zone closes. CalRecycle may reactivate a convenience zone at that same address and physical location, if it reopens as another supermarket and is identified in the Progressive Grocer Marketing Guide. For additional information about the establishment and maintenance of convenience zones, contact Kimberly Walton at (916) 322-2582 or Kimberly.Walton@calrecycle.ca.gov

Are Convenience Zones Required to Be Served by a Recycling Center?

According to PRC 14571.(a), convenience zones are intended to have a recycling center within one-half mile radius of the supermarket that creates the zone. Approximately 60 percent of the total number of zones are served by recycling centers. Recycling centers are privately owned and operated by individuals, profit and nonprofit organizations. They are certified by the Department and must adhere to standards to help provide the public the service they need, i.e. operating at least 30 hours per week, signs depicting prices paid for beverage containers, etc. However, the site where a recycling center locates for business is a decision between the operator of the center and the landlord of the property. According to PRC 14571.2, the Department shall assist dealers and recyclers to establish recycling centers within convenience zones. The Department will continually consult with local governments and beverage dealers within zones not served by a recycling center to expedite the establishment of one for the convenience of the public.

Can Multiple Overlapping Convenience Zones Be Served by a Single Recycler?

Yes. Overlapping convenience zones are common in commercial zoning areas throughout California. If a recycler is on-site at one convenience zone where one or more convenience zones overlap, each of these zones are served by this recycler. Accordingly, it is not necessary in such cases for each convenience zone to support its own recycling center.

Can Convenience Zones With No Recycler Within Be Consistent With the Law?

Under certain conditions, a convenience zone may not have a recycling center within its boundaries while consistent with the mandate. There are three conditions where this situation may exist:

  • The convenience zone is unserved. In this case, the supermarket that creates the convenience zone and other beverage dealers inside zone boundaries are affected in the following manners: they are either undergoing a 60-day grace period before they are required to redeem CRV containers in-store, they are currently redeeming CRV containers in-store, or an affected dealer may pay $100 per day to the Department in lieu of accepting the responsibility of redeeming containers in-store.
  • The convenience zone is in a holding pattern (hold zone) awaiting review in the Exemption Process. This situation occurs statutorily when a recycling center in the zone decertifies in accordance with PRC 14571.7.
  • The convenience zone is exempt.

What Are the Exemption and Revocation Processes?

A convenience zone may be exempt from the requirement to have a recycling center within its boundaries if one or more mandated conditions are met in accordance with PRC 14571.8. These conditions include: Ease of access to redemption center by consumers, reasonable distance to next closest recycling center, consumers in area predominantly use curbside program for recycling, and recycling centers in the area fail to meet a sufficient volume for economic viability. Convenience Zones granted exempt status by the Department may find their exemption revoked if circumstances have changed since the exemption was granted. For a more in depth description of the exemption and revocation process, please read the following information: Convenience Zone Exemption/Revocation Requirements. In addition to applications for exemption by program participants, convenience zones are also processed statutorily when the sole recycling center within the zone closes, or for newly activated convenience zones after the first of a calendar year according to PRC 14571.7. Although the Code of Regulations requires the frequency of exemption review not to exceed six months, reviews are typically conducted and concluded in about half that time. Larger volumes of zones reviewed are typically the result of newly activated zones that do not yet have a recycling center within their boundaries, and are reviewed in a batch. Zones based on applications may be processed individually and more quickly.

The process of revoking exemptions often coincides with the exemption review process if the zones are spatially relevant to zones in the exemption review process. Occasionally, the Division may initiate revocation based on decreased convenience where conditions warranting exemption are no longer met.

Newly activated convenience zones are reviewed for exemption in the March Exemption Review Cycle. Further information on the exemption and revocation processes can be obtained by contacting Kassandra Pizzi at (916) 322-3909 or Kassandra.Pizzi@calrecycle.ca.gov

Are Recycling Centers in Convenience Zones Always Located at the Supermarket That Creates the Convenience Zone?

No. A recycling center can serve a convenience zone by being located anywhere within the half-mile radius. Supermarket parking lots are the most common site for establishment of recycling centers as these lots often offer the most available space. Additionally, a subsidy from the Department called handling fees can be paid to the recycler if that recycler is located on-site at the supermarket or immediately adjacent to, any beverage dealer within the convenience zone. If a recycling center is a non-profit business within a convenience zone or in a rural location within a convenience zone, it is not necessary for the recycling center to be located at a beverage dealer site.