Lawmakers consider overhaul to California's bottle and can recycling program

Advocates say CRV isn't working
Posted at 3:57 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 20:48:40-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- State lawmakers are considering an overhaul to the CRV recycling program on bottles and cans that would make drink-makers responsible for setting up a system to collect the containers they produce.

Redemption centers that sort cans and bottles are the best form of recycling for the environment, yielding more high-quality usable materials than curbside recycling in blue bins. But across the state, more than half of the redemption centers have closed over the last six years.

With fewer locations to drop off recyclables, only two-thirds of the 5 and 10-cent bottle deposits actually get redeemed, according to Consumer Watchdog.

“This old model has cratered. It’s actually on the verge of collapse,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker.

Part of the industry’s struggles has to do with China’s decision to limit the recycled materials it purchases from the U.S.

Before that policy, the City of San Diego earned about $4 million a year in revenue from its recycling program. Under a contract signed last year, the city now pays outside companies about $3 million a year to collect those recyclables.

A bill debated by state lawmakers Wednesday would create a new bottle deposit system similar to one in Oregon. Beverage makers would become responsible for helping consumers recycle, with oversight by the state.

“When you put it on industry to take responsibility, and you set a redemption goal and have strong state oversight, they then have an incentive to run it right,” said Tucker.

In Oregon, almost all stores are required to take back containers and issue 10 cents per item. There are also “BottleDrop Express” kiosks where customers can leave bags full of mixed recyclables and instantly receive money in an electronic account.

Some groups have opposed the bill, saying it could hurt the already struggling neighborhood recycling centers.

William Dermody, a spokesman for the American Beverage Association, said industry is ready to work with California lawmakers on a system to recycle, reclaim and reuse plastic, according to the Associated Press.

"America's beverage companies and local California bottlers share the goal of improving the recycling and reuse of plastic in California," he said.

The bill would also add CRV onto wine and hard liquor bottles in 2024.


Regardless of the outcome of SB 372, residents in San Diego have several recycling options. There are 35 recycling centers in San Diego City Limits. Consumers can search for the closest center on

Residents can also recycle in a curbside blue bin without the bottle deposit credit, but they should take care not to contaminate their recyclables, said City of San Diego Supervising Recycling Specialist Chelsea Klaseus.

“We encourage residents to do their part to minimize contamination by making sure that anything they put into their blue bin is clean, dry and loose,” she said.

Contaminants such as food, plastic film, bags, styrofoam or utensils can degrade the value of the rest of the recyclable materials, Klaseus said.

There is a detailed list of questions and answers on the city’s recycling program here.