The California Ocean Protection Council last week gave a big boost to the long overdue effort to expand California's successful Bottle and Can recycling law to include all plastic bottles. California's Bottle Bill may very well be the most studied environmental policy in state history. It is most certainly the most thoroughly analyzed recycling law in the country. The program currently covers the roughly 20 billion beverage containers that are sold in California annually, of which 55% are aluminum, 25% of which are plastic and 20% of which are glass.
Approximately 61% of beverage containers were recycled in 2005-06, and a projected 62%-63% will be recycled in 2007-08. Recycling levels vary by material type, with roughly 75% of aluminum cans recycled, 60% of glass bottles, 45-50% of PET & HDPE, and less than 5% of all other plastic containers recycled. Utilizing the existing beverage container recycling program and collection infrastructure expanding the Bottle Bill to include all plastic bottles is likely to result in the recycling of nearly 80,000 additional tons of plastic annually. Additionally, the application of a processing fee on these non-CRV plastic bottles is likely to shift 50% or more of 250 million 3-7 plastic containers to PET or HDPE.
Fiscal Summary: This expansion is likely to generate $325-350 million in redemption payments, roughly half of which would be returned to consumers as recycling incentives/refund values. The proposal should provide local governments/curbside programs with an addition $40-50 million in annual revenue and add $150 to $175 million in net revenue to the beverage container recycling fund. It's unlikely that any other single proposal would have such a significant and meaningful impact on reducing plastic waste and marine debris.