California’s Bottle Bill Turns 30
This month marks 30 years since California implemented the landmark California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, also known as AB 2020 (Margolin, Chapter 1290, Statutes of 1986). The program was designed to be a self-funded operation that accomplished two main goals:
- Reducing litter
- Achieving a recycling rate of 80 percent for eligible containers
Since the program was first implemented in 1987, the recycling rate of eligible containers has increased from 52 percent to a program high of 85 percent in 2013. In addition to creating and sustaining one of the largest recycling infrastructures in the nation, California’s beverage container recycling program has supported thousands of jobs in the state’s recycling industry and kept more than 360 billion bottles and cans out of California landfills and off the streets—reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with mining and refining of new raw materials.
As California celebrates the many successes of its Bottle Bill 30 years after implementation, the state is also working to address new challenges to the program posed by a downturn in the market value of recycled materials. This has led to the closure of hundreds of beverage container buyback centers, leaving fewer convenient options for consumers to cash in their empty bottles and cans. As a result, after years of recycling rates exceeding the statutory goal of 80 percent, California’s rate dipped to 79.8 percent in 2016. Interested parties are looking at ways to strengthen the program to ensure its long-term sustainability.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
What is California Refund Value?
California Refund Value (CRV) is the amount paid to consumers when they recycle beverage containers at certified recycling centers. The refund value established for eligible beverage containers is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.
Where can I find the nearest recycling center?
There are approximately 1,600 CalRecycle-certified, privately operated 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 drop-off 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 $1.58 per pound CRV for aluminum cans, $1.23 per pound CRV for clear PET plastic bottles, $0.56 per pound CRV for HDPE plastic bottles (similar to the large water jugs), and $0.104 per pound CRV for glass bottles. These CRV rates are updated every six months.
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, but this certification does not confer any “state” employment status.
How are recycling funds spent? (Fiscal Year 2016-2017 estimates)
Sales of CRV beverage containers in Fiscal Year 2016-17 are projected to bring in approximately $1.2 billion in deposits to California’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund. Of that total, $1.05 billion goes toward CRV redemption payments to consumers.
When used beverage containers are thrown away instead of recycled, the unclaimed CRV refunds are used to provide:
- Competitive grants: $1.5 million
- Payments to support curbside recycling programs: $15 million
- Grants to local conservation corps: $6.8 million
- Payments to recycling centers sited at supermarkets to ensure consumer convenience: $46.7 million
- Market Development Payment Program to promote reuse of plastics discards: $10 million
- Payments to cities and counties: $10.5 million per year for beverage container recycling and litter cleanup activities
- Quality Incentive Payments: $10 million per year to curbside recycling programs and drop-off or collection programs to promote the recycling of glass discards that meet specified quality standards for reuse.
- Program administration: approximately $51.1 million.
For more information, see CalRecycle’s FAQ page on beverage container recycling. Not enough? Find even more Frequently Asked Questions here.
Here’s the movie we made to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Bottle Bill—enjoy!