California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Beverage Container Recycling

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

The following questions and answers concern general recycling program issues. For more detailed answers to technical questions, please visit the web pages for specific program areas.

Questions About...

Questions About Consumer Recycling and Recycling Centers

  • What is California Refund Value?
    The California Refund Value (CRV) is the amount paid to consumers when they recycle beverage containers at certified recycling centers. The minimum refund value established for each type of eligible beverage container is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.
  • What is a recycling center?
    A recycling center is an operation certified by the Department to accept empty beverage containers and pay CRV to consumers. Recycling centers are operated by independent businesses, not the State of California.
  • Where can I find the nearest recycling center?
    There are approximately 2,000 certified recycling centers in California. Call 1-800-RECYCLE or visit our online recycling center locator to find the certified recycling center nearest you.
  • What other recycling options are there?
    In addition to a certified recycling center, consumers can donate recyclables to a community service program, a dropoff or collection program, or a curbside recycling program. As with recycling centers, these programs are operated by independent businesses or local governments, not the State of California.
  • How much do recycling centers pay per pound for cans and bottles?
    Currently, state certified recycling centers pay a minimum of $1.57 CRV for aluminum cans; $1.00 CRV for clear PET plastic bottles; $0.57 CRV for HDPE plastic bottles (similar to the large water jugs); and $0.105 CRV for glass bottles. These per pound CRV rates fluctuate annually usually taking effect the first day of the year. In addition to the CRV, recyclers may also pay a scrap value, which may also fluctuate.
  • Can recycling centers pay less than the refund value for redeemed containers?
    Yes, if the material is contaminated. Operators of certified recycling centers must inspect each load of containers to determine whether it is eligible for CRV. Recycling centers have the option to refuse to accept containers which, in their opinion, are excessively contaminated with dirt, moisture, or other foreign substances. Alternatively, recycling centers may adjust downward the CRV per pound used to calculate the payment by the ratio of such substances to empty beverage containers. In this circumstance, the consumer has the right to accept the discounted refund and/or scrap price, to separate refund from nonrefund material, or to take the material back.
  • How do I know that the scales at a recycling center are accurate?
    Certified recycling centers are not official "weighmasters." However, they are required to weigh materials that have been presented for redemption on a scale or other device that has been properly approved, tested, and sealed by the local county department of weights and measures. During inspections and onsite visits, CalRecycle personnel verify that recyclers' scales bear proper seals. It is unlawful, and punishable as a misdemeanor, for any person to use for commercial purposes a scale that is "incorrect." Suspected violations should be referred to the appropriate county department of weights and measures, which are ultimately responsible for ensuring the accuracy of recycling center scales.
  • How do recyclers account for the weight of buckets used during the weighing process?
    Typically, recyclers "zero" their scales with the bucket on them prior to weighing redeemed materials. Alternatively, recyclers may mark the outside of each bucket with its weight, then deduct that weight from the scale measurement.
  • Do I need to crush my cans?
    Generally, no. However, requirements about the condition of beverage containers are established by the recycling center and may vary from one recycler to the next. Therefore, you should contact the recycling center where you plan to take your containers to determine its requirements.
  • Are recycling center operators State employees?
    No. The owners and employees of recycling centers are not State employees. CalRecycle is responsible for certifying recycling centers to participate in the program. This certification does not confer any "state" employment status.

Questions About the Recycling Program

  • How many beverage containers were recycled last year?
    This and other statistical information can be found in the Biannual Report of Beverage Container Sales, Returns, Redemption, and Recycling Rates.
  • What are the current CRV rates?
    The current rates are posted on this website.
  • How is California’s program different from those in other states?
    Bottle bills in other states charge the consumer a deposit that is refunded by the retailer when the beverage containers are returned to the retailer. In California, distributors that sell eligible beverage containers to retailers make California redemption payments to CalRecycle. The cost of these payments is passed on to consumers at the point of sale. Consumers are paid California Refund Value (CRV) when they return empty beverage containers to certified recycling centers. Another unique feature of the California program is that a processing fee is assessed on beverage manufacturers whose beverage containers cost more to recycle than they are worth as scrap value when recycled.
  • Why is there a Beverage Container Recycling Program?
    The California Legislature enacted the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act in 1986 in response to the need to reduce litter and establish a beverage container recycling system in California. The Act authorized the creation of the Division of Recycling (Division) within the Department of Conservation to administer these litter reduction and recycling efforts. In January 2010, the program was moved into the new Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
  • How does the Act ensure convenient recycling?
    The Act requires CalRecycle to identify convenience zones, which are areas within a one-half mile radius around supermarkets that are listed in the Progressive Grocers Guide and have total sales of at least $2 million annually. Every convenience zone that is not specifically exempted by CalRecycle must have a certified recycling center in the zone or each dealer within its boundaries that sells beverages must either redeem containers within the store or make a daily payment to the State.
  • How are recycling funds spent?
    Recycling funds are used to pay CRV to recyclers (to reimburse them for paying CRV to consumers). In addition, unredeemed redemption fee revenues are used to provide:
    • Competitive Grants: $1.5 million per year
    • Curbside Supplemental Payments: Annual payments of $15 million to curbside recycling programs
    • Grants to Local Conservation Corps: $13.5 million in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, and $5.9 million annually thereafter, plus a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)
    • Handling Fees: Payments to supermarket-sited recycling centers
    • Market Development Payment Program for Plastics. $10 million annually until 1/1/17 to certified entities or plastic manufacturers
    • Payments to Cities and Counties. $10.5 million per year for beverage container recycling and litter cleanup activities
    • Program Administration: Approximately $46 million per year for support of the program
    • Quality Incentive Payments: $10 million per year to curbside recycling programs and dropoff or collection programs to promote the recycling of glass that meet specified quality standards
    • Statewide Public Education and Information Campaign: $2.5 million per year

    This chart shows the flow of funds through the recycling program. Any funds not spent on mandated purposes remain in the State Treasury until appropriated by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor.

  • Is the redemption value paid in stores taxable?
    Yes and No. In 1986, the Board of Equalization determined the redemption value was not a deposit, but a part of the cost of the product being sold at the retail level. If the product purchased is subject to sales tax, then the redemption value applied to that product is subject to sales tax. If the product purchased is not subject to sales tax, then the redemption value applied to that product is not subject to sales tax.
  • Is the CRV a tax?
    No. The Legislature has declared that the redemption payment is neither a deposit nor a tax, but a regulatory fee collected for the purpose of assuring the return for recycling of a greater percentage of the beverage containers sold in the state.
  • Why aren't all beverages included in the recycling program?
    The composition of beverages included in the program is determined by statute, Section 14504 of the Public Resources Code.

    The following beverages sold in aluminum, glass, plastic, and bimetal containers are included in the program:

    • Beer and other malt beverages
    • Wine and distilled spirit coolers
    • Vegetable juice 16 ounces or less in volume
    • Carbonated and noncarbonated water, soda and mineral water, and similar soft drinks
    • Carbonated and noncarbonated fruit drinks that contain any percentage of fruit juice
    • Noncarbonated soft drinks and sport drinks
    • Coffee and tea drinks
    • Carbonated and noncarbonated fruit drinks

    The following beverages are excluded from the program:

    • Any product sold in a container that is not aluminum, glass, plastic, or bimetal.
    • Wine, or wine from which alcohol has been removed, in whole or in part, whether or not sparkling or carbonated.
    • Milk
    • Medical food
    • Infant formula
    • Vegetable juice in containers 16 ounces or greater in volume
    • 100 percent fruit juice in containers 46 ounces or greater in volume
    • Distilled spirits
    • Any beverage container product type that is not specifically included by the Act.

Questions About Curbside Recycling

  • How do I get curbside recycling in my area?
    CalRecycle does not administer local curbside collection programs. If you wish to have curbside recycling in your area or have questions about your existing curbside service, please contact your city or county government.
  • I need a recycling bin for curbside pickup of my recyclables. How can I obtain one?
    Local governments or local waste haulers operate curbside programs. To obtain a curbside bin, contact your local city hall or county administrative office.

Questions About Convenience Zones

  • What is a convenience zone?
    A convenience zone is the area within a  half-mile radius around a supermarket in California. California’s beverage container recycling law defines supermarkets as those full-line grocery stores with gross annual sales of at least $2 million. A recycling center must be located within every convenience zone. CalRecycle can, under certain circumstances, exempt a convenience zone from this requirement.
  • What if there is no recycling center located within a convenience zone?
    A recycling center must be located within every convenience zone, unless it has applied for and received an exemption from CalRecycle. If this requirement is not met, then all dealers (e.g., grocers, etc.) that sell CRV beverage containers within that convenience zone must redeem the containers on their premises or in lieu of redeeming in store, may pay a daily fee.
  • I received a notice that says I'm in a convenience zone. What does that mean?
    When a convenience zone is established, notices are sent to all stores that sell CRV beverages within its boundaries. The notice provides information on the recycling center and in-store redemption requirements that pertain to your convenience zone.

Miscellaneous Questions

  • How can I get beverage container recycling in my business or workplace?
    For information on beverage container recycling in your business or workplace, please call us at 1-800-RECYCLE.
  • How can I get paper/cardboard recycling in my office?
    For information on paper/cardboard recycling in your office, please contact us at (916) 322-4027.

More FAQs

Last updated: December 3, 2014
Beverage Container Recycling, http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/BevContainer/
Contacts: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/BevContainer/Contacts.htm