California's Bottle Bill Needs Our Attention
California's Bottle Bill is one of the most successful and cost effective recycling and pollution reduction programs in North America.
Since enacted in 1987, more than 362 billion beverage containers have been recycled, including more than 10 million tons of aluminum, glass and plastic containers.
No other recycling program or policy in this state has resulted in higher recycling levels, and no program of its kind in the country has been found to be more cost effective.
However, on the 30th anniversary of California's Bottle Bill, the program is in a state of crisis. Falling scrap values and outdated regulatory provisions have reduced financial support for California's recycling infrastructure to unsustainable levels.
- Payment levels to Curbside and Buyback Recycling Programs are down more than $30 million—despite a program fund surplus of more than $200 million
- More than 560 recycling centers have closed in the last two years alone—hundreds of rural communities are without any opportunity for redeeming empty containers
- California's beverage container recycling rate has fallen below 80% for the first time since 2008. This drop in recycling is equivalent to an additional 1.6 million beverage containers littered or landfilled every day
Stakeholders agree that long-term program updates are needed, but California's recycling infrastructure needs an immediate fix before the legislature adjourns on September 15. Elements of that fix—which have been analyzed, heard, and passed by the State Assembly include:
- Restoring Recycling Program Reimbursements to 2015 levels
- Allocating $3 million in surplus funds to establish recycling opportunities in rural and other underserved areas
- Redirecting State enforcement resources from outdated and inefficient store ‘take back’ requirements to siting and supporting full-service community recycling locations
- Extending recycling market development payments currently set to expire on December 31
Recent media coverage of California's Bottle Bill Crisis
Sonoma Index Tribune: Sonomans talkin' trash over recyclables August 24, 2017
San Francisco Chronicle: Recycling centers, squeezed by economy, seek help from state August 4, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Californians are recycling bottles less and less. Here's what's going on July 4, 2017
AlterNet: As Recycling Declines and Centers Close, the Homeless Are Really Screwed June 26, 2017
Mercury News: Recycling centers continue to struggle, driving California recycling rates down June 17, 2017
San Francisco Chronicle: Editorial: California should stop shortchanging recycling program June 5, 2017
Sacramento Bee: Your local recycling center is in trouble – should California come to the rescue June 4, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Editorial: Stop starving California's recycling program June 2, 2017
Los Angeles Press Telegram: Is California’s heralded recycling program broken? May 27, 2017
Sea Change Radio: Interview with CAW Executive Director Mark Murray: California Recycling in Decline May 23, 2017
Los Angeles Times: Gov. Brown travels the globe talking about climate change. He should focus on this basic program at home May 22, 2017
San Diego Union Tribune: Editorial: State leaders should care about plastic bottles as much as plastic bags May 22, 2017
San Diego Union Tribune: Op-Ed: Mark Murray: California’s self-inflicted recycling crisis needs fix May 18, 2017
Sacramento Bee: Op-Ed: Jared Blumenfeld: Brown needs to rescue California’s recycling programs May 15, 2017