New Watchdog Report Lays Out Checklist For CalRecycle To Make Bottle Deposit Refunds Easy As Buying The Beverages

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Los Angeles, CA— Consumer Watchdog released a report today outlining what CalRecycle, the state’s recycling regulator, should do beginning at its public workshop on April 25 to craft new regulations implementing bottle deposit return system reform SB 1013. 
This major reform of the shattered bottle deposit program makes supermarkets responsible for bottle deposit refunds for the first time. Consumer Watchdog urges the regulator to require at least 4,500 new redemption points to make California Redemption Value (CRV) deposit refunds widely accessible when the law goes into effect on January 1, 2025. That number would provide one point of return for every 9,000 Californians.
“Today, only one recycling center exists for every 31,600 consumers in California compared to return locations serving several hundred consumers in states and countries with far more successful programs,” Consumer Watchdog writes in its latest report, At Your Convenience: How California Can Make Refunding Bottle Deposits As Easy As Buying Beverages In The First Place. 

Michigan has one redemption point for every 914 residents, Norway one for every 360.  (See Convenience Chart below.)
“To make its bottle deposit return system a success, CalRecycle must write regulations implementing the state’s newly reformed bottle law under SB 1013 to guarantee that retailers provide consumers with convenient access to redemption,” the report continues. The report notes that the reform law “gives CalRecycle the power to design and enforce a standard of convenience that works for California consumers and ensures that CRV beverage containers are in fact recycled.”
“Simply put, the more visible and conveniently located, automated redemption points are offered to consumers, the higher the rate of beverage container returns. The higher the rate of returns, the more hundreds of millions of dollars in deposits are refunded back to consumers, the more energy is saved and the more litter is reduced. More greenhouse gases and toxic emissions are cut, and more jobs are created by recycling hundreds of millions of additional containers every year.”
Consumer Watchdog reviewed deposit return systems in the United States and Canada for this CalRecycle Checklist:
• By the end of May 2023, unveil applications for deposit beverage retailers and recyclers to apply for $73.3 million in grants to invest in proven automated redemption technologies.  Award the money by June 30, 2023.
• Adopt regulations that require at least 4,500 new points of redemption to provide one redemption point per 9,000 Californians. SB 1013 gives CalRecycle the power to define how many redemption points are necessary to provide convenient and widespread access to redemption service.
• Do not approve any more mobile recycling projects involving trucks to collect containers that have failed everywhere they have been tried.
• Require at least 3 automated points of redemption at 3 different supermarkets within a previously unserved zone or one automated community redemption depot.
• Require every big box style store selling CRV beverages to offer consumers at least 2 automated recycling machines on their premises.  
• Ensure that machines and bag drop receptacles at supermarkets, as well as redemption centers, are open for at least 70 hours a week.
• Make approval of any supermarket proposals to hire third parties to provide redemption service contingent on that third party’s proven qualifications and experience running deposit return systems.
• Strictly adhere to the deadlines SB 1013 sets out. Adopt emergency regulations by January 1, 2024, that provide access and convenience for consumers.


*California’s hybrid system of returns to Redemption Centers (RCs) and to retail stores is fictional because most retail stores obligated to redeem routinely turn away consumers and face few enforcement actions. More than half the state’s redemption centers have closed in the last decade.
Chart Sources: Consumer Watchdog, Container Recycling Institute, Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative, Reloop

Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker
Liza Tucker is a consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog, following everything from oil and gas to the regulation of toxic substances in the state of California. She comes to us from Marketplace, the largest U.S. broadcast show on business and economics heard by ten million listeners each week on 400 radio stations. Liza worked at this public radio show for a decade, first as Commentary Editor and then as Senior Editor for both Washington and Sustainability News.

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