News | October 4, 2006

California Refund Value Program Celebrates 20 Years Of Recycling

Sacramento, CA - As California marks 20 years of the biggest bottle and can recycling program in the country, consumers will soon have an even greater incentive to recycle. Beginning January 1, Californians will get more cash back for their aluminum, glass and plastic beverage containers.

Assembly Bill 3056, signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on September 30, raises the amount of California Refund Value (CRV) consumers receive at recycling centers to a nickel for containers less than 24 ounces and a dime for containers 24 ounces and larger. For at least six months, the amount of CRV consumers pay at the store will remain four cents on smaller containers and eight cents on larger ones.

"Californians have demonstrated a tremendous commitment to the environment through their beverage container recycling efforts over the past two decades," said Bridgett Luther, director of the state Department of Conservation, which oversees the bottle and can recycling program. "By approving this legislation, the governor maintains his commitment to the environment and puts money back in the pockets of consumers."

Since AB 2020 established the state's recycling program in 1986, more than 160 billion aluminum, glass, and plastic beverage containers have been recycled in the state. In 2005 alone, Californians recycled an all-time record 12.4 billion beverage containers, 61 percent of the 20.5 billion that were purchased in the state.

"If we add in the containers that will be recycled in 2006 to all those that have been recycled since the program began, we'll have enough to fill up all lanes of Interstate 5 with a wall of bottles and cans 14 feet high the entire length of the state," Luther said.

Nevertheless, billions of bottles and cans also end up in landfills each year.

"When people fail to recycle, it's not just a waste of CRV," Luther said. "It also means lost energy savings, because recycling saves energy, and those valuable raw materials for manufacturing are tossed away forever."

When AB 2020 passed in September of 1986, there was no incentive to recycle bottles and cans other than the "scrap value" recycling centers were willing to pay. CRV was introduced in 1987, which allowed Californians to collect one cent for each beverage container recycled. In 1988, Californians recycled 6.1 billion CRV containers.

CRV later increased to 2.5 cents on containers less than 24 ounces and 4 cents on containers 24 ounces and larger. From 1991-2003, Californians averaged more than 10 billion recycled CRV containers per year. When CRV increased to 4 cents (8 cents on larger containers) in 2004, the number jumped to 12 billion recycled.

Most beverages packaged in glass, aluminum and plastic -- such as soft drinks, water, beer, sports drinks, juices and coffee and tea drinks -- are included in the CRV program. Notable exceptions are milk, wine and distilled spirits.

Californians have several convenient options for recycling and redeeming CRV bottles and cans, primarily through neighborhood curbside programs and the approximately 2,100 certified recycling centers and drop-off and collection locations throughout California.

All aspects of the state's beverage container recycling program are paid for with unclaimed refunds of CRV beverage containers, at no cost to the state's general fund.

In addition to promoting beverage container recycling, the Department of Conservation maps and studies earthquakes and other geologic phenomena; classifies areas containing mineral deposits; ensures reclamation of land used for mining; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and administers agricultural and open-space land conservation programs.

SOURCE: California Department of Conservation