CalRecycle Approves Pilots for Convenient Bottle Redemption

CalRecycle Approves Pilots for Convenient Bottle Redemption

CalRecycle just approved two new pilot projects, including “mobile take-back” and “bag-drop collection” programs.

Redeeming bottles and cans will soon get much easier for nearly 900,000 Californians living in San Francisco and the Los Angeles County community of Culver City.

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) just approved two new pilot projects, including “mobile take-back” and “bag-drop collection” programs, as the state explores new models to boost consumer access to recycling California Redemption Value (CRV) bottles and cans. Successful projects could serve as new models for more convenient redemption statewide.

“California takes consumer redemption convenience very seriously, and these local pilot programs are tailored to address community needs like high rent costs and profit declines due to volatile scrap markets,” said CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa in a statement. “The state responded to the sudden closure of 281 recycling centers last August by increasing enforcement and legislating funds for this program to support innovative, new redemption options for underserved communities.”

The Beverage Container Recycling Pilot Program, created by Senate Bill 458 (Wiener, Chapter 648, Statutes of 2017), authorizes CalRecycle to approve up to five pilot projects proposed by local jurisdictions to explore innovative, new models for CRV redemption in underserved areas. Assembly Bill 54 (Ting, Chapter 793, Statutes of 2019) made changes to the pilot program to allow for greater flexibility and to provide up to $5 million in funding for approved projects.

The law grants pilot projects more flexible operating requirements compared to traditional certified recyclers. In addition to these two projects, CalRecycle can approve and provide funding for three more pilot projects before 2022 for other California communities that want to innovate CRV redemption models to fit their specific needs.

Using the criteria prescribed in regulations, CalRecycle has approved the following projects:

San Francisco: San Francisco’s pilot project combines a traditional recycling center site with a bag-drop collection program that will utilize collection bins at various locations throughout the city. Consumers will be able to locate collection bins using their mobile phone, drop their tagged bag of empty beverage containers in the bin and receive electronic payment for their materials within 72 hours after the material is processed. San Francisco currently has 59 unserved convenience zones with 622 CRV beverage retailers operating within those zones.

Culver City: Culver City’s pilot project features a mobile redemption center that will rotate between two selected locations six days a week for a total of 43 hours. The city and pilot project recycler may add additional locations in the future. Culver City currently has 16 unserved convenience zones with 90 CRV beverage retailers within those zones.

Pilot project start dates will vary based on the application approval of pilot project recyclers. Once pilot programs commence, all convenience zones within the program area will be considered served, relieving CRV retailers of their obligation to either redeem containers in-store or pay a $100-per-day fee.

Approved pilot projects will operate until July 1, 2022. Jurisdictions interested in applying for one of the three allowable pilot projects left before the approval deadline of January 1, 2022, can find application instructions online.

At a Glance: California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program

Californians have recycled more than 400 billion bottles and cans since the inception of the Beverage Container Recycling Program in 1986. The state’s beverage container recycling rate increased from 52 percent in 1988 to its current rate of 76 percent. Californians recycled 18.5 billion of the 24 billion CRV beverage containers they purchased in 2018. The state is on track to match that recycling volume in 2019.

California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act established a deposit on beverage containers, the CRV, to incentivize recycling and reduce litter. Beverage containers can be redeemed at CalRecycle-certified recycling centers or obligated retailers.

CalRecycle safeguards California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program through:

  • Interagency agreements with the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to combat recycling fraud, resulting in 267 arrests since 2010.
  • More than 2,500 CRV beverage dealer inspections throughout 2019 to make sure obligated retailers are providing redemption of containers in-store.
  • A $3.6 million administrative action against CVS Health Corp. and prioritized enforcement against non-compliant retailers with the largest number of violations and penalties owed.
  • Issuance of enforcement orders and administrative accusations against non-compliant program participants, resulting in more than $599 million in assessments served.
  • Streamlined recycling center application certifications, resulting in 124 new application approvals since August 1, 2019.
  • Delivery of statutorily mandated payments to recyclers and other program participants to support the recycling of clean, high-quality beverage containers that can be easily made into new products.
  • Allocation of additional $15 million in funding to support recycling centers and local programs to explore new redemption models that could include mobile collection.
  • Enhanced precertification training of recycling center operators to ensure program compliance, including documentation requirements and enforcement of daily load limits.
  • Probationary reviews and site inspections of recycling centers.
  • Certified processor oversight measures, including load inspections of recycling center shipments.
  • Monitoring and tracking of imported material reports, submitted by anyone hauling more than 25 pounds of aluminum, bimetal or plastic, or more than 250 pounds of glass into the state of California.
  • Internal monitoring and risk assessment of daily claims for reimbursement and post-payment reviews/investigations of Beverage Container Recycling Program participants.
  • Maintenance of online databases directing consumers to their nearest certified recycling centers or retailers required to redeem CRV deposits in-store.
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