California could add wine and liquor bottles to recycling program

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is reportedly adding containers of wine and distilled spirits to its struggling recycling program, while offering beverage merchants another option to collect empty bottles and cans, as part of a an advanced measure on Wednesday. But critics say the bill would also give hundreds of millions of dollars to companies they say don’t need the incentives.

It’s a « huge opportunity » to divert hundreds of tons of additional waste from landfills, said Democratic Congressman Phil Ting, who brought the bill to the House. « This bill will be a huge leap forward. »

Additionally, distributors could form a cooperative organization to collect the containers as an alternative to the current law that requires stores to take back empties, according to the proposal of pro Tempore Senate Speaker Toni Atkins.

Fewer people have been able to claim back their deposits in recent years as many neighborhood recycling centers have closed. Consumer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog said many grocery stores are refusing to take back empty products from stores, as required.

The bill does not specify how the cooperative would operate, but would require distributors to submit their plan to state regulators for approval. It would also increase the penalty for violations of the law from $1,000 to $5,000 per day and for intentional violations from $5,000 to $10,000 per day.

California consumers pay a penny every time they buy a 12-ounce (355 milliliter) bottle or can, and a penny for containers larger than 24 ounces (709 milliliters).

They are supposed to recover this money by returning the bottles and cans, an incentive so that the containers do not go to landfill but can be recycled into new products.

The proposal would include a deposit and refund of 25 cents for wine and distilled spirits sold in a box, bag or pouch.

Hawaii, Iowa, Maine and Vermont already have drop-off programs that include these containers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Adding wine and spirits would bring nearly $18 million more annually to the state’s recycling fund starting in 2024, along with annual costs exceeding $6 million, the California Department of Resources Recycling projects. and Recovery, commonly known as CalRecycle.

Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration has offered grants for automated recycling machines, also known as reverse vending machines, in high schools, colleges and retailers, and state-funded mobile recycling programs in rural areas and other places with few recycling options. He also proposed to temporarily double refunds to encourage recycling and return some of nearly $600 million in unclaimed deposits, but that double refund is not in the current proposal.

Consumer Watchdog, Container Recycling Institute and The Story of Stuff Project objected that Atkins’ proposal contains too much pork for companies, costing nearly $400 million over the next five years for market development and incentives to quality which, according to the groups, are not necessary.

Of that, $300 million would go to glass container makers, including E&J Gallo Winery’s Gallo Glass Company, the nation’s largest glass container factory, they said.

Consumer deposits « shouldn’t guarantee hugely profitable companies like Gallo, » Consumer Watchdog’s Liza Tucker said in a statement. « These grants don’t help existing redemption centers that are dying on the vine, they only help manufacturers and the biggest recyclers. »

The recycling institute withdrew its support, saying the grants would put « strain on the program’s ability to operate with financial viability ».

Consumer Watchdog supported the distributor cooperative portion of the bill, which is similar to previous legislative proposals. This option « could work to create better access if the rules are written properly and enforced, » the group said.

But the measure cleared the Assembly on a 54-0 vote with no opposition expressed. He was heading to the Senate for a final vote before going to Governor Gavin Newsom.

“This is an issue handled in the right way” with intensive negotiations over several years, said Democratic Congressman Adam Gray. « We came up with a solution…good for the industry, good for the state of California. »

Without addressing subsidies, Atkins said his bill would “reduce consumer confusion” by adding wine and spirits containers, while potentially doubling the recycling of those containers from the current 30%. She said her bill also gives dealers « a new path to compliance » with the state’s recycling law.

A second bill aimed at Newsom is designed to help reduce recycling fraud by prohibiting cash payments from processors to recyclers.

Don Thompson, Associated Press


Back to top button