California’s Recycling Agency (CalRecycle) has submitted a proposal to increase credits for returns of recyclable containers. The state’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund (BRCF) has a huge surplus of several hundred million dollars, for which the agency submitted a proposal to return half of the funds to citizens and to invest in more equipment to increase incentives to recycle.
One part of the plan would temporarily double to a dime the refund for a 12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle or can and 20 cents for containers over 24 ounces (709 milliliters),
“This surplus belongs to California consumers and we want to get that money back in their pockets through bonus recycling credits and more convenient redemption options,” Rachel Machi Wagoner, director of the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, said in her April 1 press release. “These targeted investments double California Redemption Value (CRV) refunds to get surplus deposits back to Californians.”
In its letter to the state Department of Finance, CalReycle submitted a plan for how it would use this funding. In fiscal year (FY) 2022-23, $330 million of the more than $630 million balance in the Beverage Container Recycling Fund would be available to Californians through increased return refunds or through investments to enhance recycling. These are one-time steps, not recurring annually programs.
At the end of FY 2020-21 (June 30, 2020), the funds balance was about $275 million. Now CalRecycle estimates it will grow by more than 130% through the end of FY 2022-23 unless some of the monies are used.
The plan has five components, of which, providing consumer recycling credits for returning beverage containers would use $100 million. Another $70 million would be used to add about 2,000 reverse vending machines through grants to high schools, colleges and retailers that are obligated to redeem containers in-store.
Another $105 million would finance two smaller programs: Increasing the number and availability of state-funded mobile recycling programs in rural and underserved communities to boost recyclable returns. $55 million would be allocated to this program.
Another $50 million would be used to improve the quality of recycled beverage containers to help more get recyclable material into new beverage containers. Assembly Bill 793, which the governor signed in September 2020, requires the composition of plastic containers to have more and more postconsumer recycled material.
The remaining $25 million would be used for new infrastructure and technology to support redemptions and administration costs.
The rapid growth of the BRCF, which is funded from the California Refund Value of a nickel or dime charge to each can of soda purchased, is another reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic. Californians recycled 18.5 billion bottles and cans from July 2020 through June 2021, a roughly 800 million container increase from the previous fiscal year.
“Beverage sales increased to historic levels in 2020 and 2021, as consumers stocked up on bottled water and other beverages. Returns of beverage containers slumped in 2020, as stay at home and social distancing orders were in effect. While returns have increased significantly in 2021, also hitting a historic high. . .,” CalRecycle explained in its Finance letter.
Consequently the recycling collections have quickly grown since refunds have slowed.
A major goal of the proposal is to increase California’s recycling rate to 80% of higher, according to Wagoner.
“Californians want to recycle and they’re doing their part with the return of 18.5 billion bottles and cans last (fiscal) year. That’s a nearly 70 percent recycling rate,” Wagoner said. “We can get closer to 100 percent recycling by giving Californians more redemption options and new opportunities to succeed.”