Los Angeles, CA—State data show that California consumers left $60 million in unredeemed bottle and can deposits with the state in the first six months of 2020 as the redemption rate for consumers plunged to 60.2% from 66% in the face of the pandemic and a deepening economic crisis for redemption centers.
Data published by the state recycling regulator, CalRecycle, show:
-Deposit beverage sales rose 8.4% over the first six months of 2020 because the pandemic had more consumers staying at home and stocking up instead of buying drinks at restaurants and other entertainment venues. Those increased sales generated $56 million more in deposit money collected by supermarkets from consumers and paid to the state in fiscal year 2019/20.
-Consumers returned 7.9% fewer empties for refunds in those six months.
-CalRecycle paid out $60 million less in fiscal year 2019/20 to redemption centers that effectively recycle 88% of all empties generated in California by separating them from other recyclables and keeping them clean.
-Waste haulers, by contrast, collected $10 million more from the state in the 2019/20 fiscal year ended June 30 over the year before, even though high contamination rates infect loads collected by waste haulers at the curbside. More consumers threw away empties or donated them to blue recycling bins. California is the only state that pays haulers consumer deposits from bottles and cans thrown into blue bins, while also paying them for processing the empties.
-Increased deposit money paid to CalRecycle, together with lower payments to deposit system participants for recycling, left CalRecycle with $109 million more in the state bottle deposit recycling fund than last fiscal year. The fund now totals up to half a billion dollars.
The bottle deposit system is meant to reduce litter, conserve energy via the provision of convenient locations for consumers to return empties and collect deposit refunds. California redemption locations supply in-state manufacturers with clean aluminum, plastic and glass feedstock for new products. This also cuts greenhouse gas emissions and generates new jobs in the recycling and manufacturing sectors. Consumer Watchdog said the new data should be a rallying cry for Governor Newsom to take leadership over fixing the broken bottle deposit law.
“Governor Newsom needs to absorb this data and realize consumers are not getting back the nickel and dime deposits they were promised,” said Consumer Advocate Liza Tucker. “As a leader in fighting climate change, it’s time for the Governor to take leadership in reforming our bottle deposit law to guarantee greater and more effective recycling and a redemption rate of 90% to rival states that have done the bottle deposit program correctly.”
The rates of redemption in the other bottle deposit states in America are as follows:
Michigan, 89%; Oregon, 86%; Maine, 84% (2017); Iowa, 71%; Vermont, 71%; New York, 64%; Hawaii, 62%; Connecticut, 50%; Massachusetts, 50%.
California’s bottle deposit system relies on a shrinking number of redemption centers and a rigid and outdated financing mechanism to sustain them.
In its report, “Trashed: How California Recycling and How to Fix It,” Consumer Watchdog urges the Governor to create a new bottle deposit system where the beverage companies are responsible for recycling the containers their products come in. This is the system used in all other bottle deposit states, except Hawaii.
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