California lawmakers are taking into consideration requiring beverage distributors to create a new system to take back their own containers, similar to one that has been successful in neighboring Oregon. It would be part of a plan that also would add wine and liquor bottles to the program in 2024. California is one of 10 states where consumers must pay a 5- or 10-cent deposit on bottles and cans that they can redeem when they turn in those containers, with the goal of increasing the chance people will recycle.
The problem is about half of California’s recycling centers have closed in recent years, leaving people more likely to toss containers in the garbage instead of taking them in to be reused and getting their money back. All of San Francisco, for instance, now has just four locations.
The measure by Democratic Sen. Bob Wieckowski of Fremont would require beverage makers to come up with their own more convenient recycling program by 2024. It would eventually reduce the state’s role to oversight and enforcement. “The current system is broken down, its antiquated, it’s done,” he said. His proposal should appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats because “we’re going to turn it over to private business.”
Oregon, Michigan, Norway, Germany and Lithuania all put the responsibility on the beverage industry and require retailers to accept recyclables, and all have higher redemption rates than California, the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said Tuesday. The group calls California’s program “the most inconvenient” out of 50 bottle deposit programs it reviewed.
“We don’t have a place to bring our bottles and cans,” said Jamie Court, the group’s president. “The companies that are making the money selling the juice and soda are also the companies that should be handling the redemption and be responsible for having a 90% redemption rate.”
It recommended retailers, among other steps, use “reverse vending machines” that allow consumers to feed empties into a machine and give them cash or store credit. The group says two-thirds of containers are redeemed by consumers in California, with an additional 12% redeemed by curbside waste haulers, not the customers who bought the products. It projected that adding wine and liquor bottles would increase recycling proceeds by about $100 million a year.