Sep 28 - SB 402 (Wolk) Bigger Better Bottle Bill Preserves Jobs, Reduces Litter, and Puts Program on Path to Sustainability

September 28, 2009

Melissa Jones
Office of Senator Lois Wolk

Wolk bill to support beverage container recycling awaits Governor's signature.
Bill would preserve thousands of green jobs, reduces litter, and puts program on path to sustainability.

SACRAMENTO--Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has until October 11 to sign into law a measure to increase recycling incentives to maintain funding for curbside and other recycling services throughout the state.

Senate Bill 402 by Senator Lois Wolk (D-Davis) would add roughly 1.5 billion additional beverage containers to the state’s recycling program, including juices and other drinks sold in paperboard and aseptic packaging, large bottles of 100% fruit juice, as well as soy, nut, rice and other grain beverages, regardless of container type. Additionally, the measure would also extend the existing 10-cent redemption value to containers 20 ounces and larger. The current threshold is 24 ounces and larger.

"California’s recycling program is the most successful in the nation. The state’s recycling industry is directly responsible for employing 10,000 Californians. It generates $4 billion in salaries and wages, and produces $10 billion worth of goods and services annually," said Wolk. "If the Governor does not sign this measure California could lose this invaluable program, which keeps millions of recyclable containers out of our landfills, provides thousands of green jobs throughout the state, and eliminates 600,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year."

The Beverage Container Recycling Fund that finances the state’s recycling program is $200 million in the red this year due to a combination of higher recycling rates and loans to the state’s general fund. Just this year, over $100 million of the program’s funding was loaned to the General Fund to help balance the state budget. At the same time, recycling rates have jumped from less than 60 percent 5 years ago to nearly 80 percent today. That translates into more California Redemption Value (CRV) deposits being collected by consumers, and less funding for the state’s recycling operations. So dire is the situation that effective July 1st of this year, the Department of Conservation was forced to implement an 85 percent reduction in all program funding.

"This measure will help ensure the continued success of a program that is working to keep more than 17 billion containers from being littered or landfilled," said Mark Murray, the executive director of Californians Against Waste, one of the bill’s supporters. "SB 402 puts the state’s recycling program on a path of sustainability. It is critical that the Governor sign this measure into law."

Without immediate action:

  • Up to 1200 supermarket-based recycling centers may be forced to shut down—eliminating consumer convenience and threatening more than 1800 jobs;
  • Local Conservation Corps will lose nearly half their funding, jeopardizing more than 3000 jobs for at-risk-youth;
  • Recycling and Market Development Incentives for California processors and manufacturers of recycled materials will be decimated, shifting hundreds of good paying green jobs overseas; and
  • Critical funding for local government recycling and litter reduction efforts will be lost.

"Less than 65 percent of the two to three billion 20 ounce containers used every year in California are currently recycled, meaning an excess of one billion of these plastic containers are littered or dumped in our landfills every year," said Wolk. "These containers are used outside the home and away from curbside recycling bins. This legislation encourages Californians to keep them out of the waste stream."

SB 402 passed the legislature with bipartisan support, receiving a 58-16 vote in the Assembly, due in part to the overwhelming and unprecedented level of stakeholder support by a broad coalition of recyclers, local governments, retailers, large and small beer producers and glass bottle manufacturers, and environmental groups. Supporters include Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., Miller-Coors, Heineken USA, California Small Brewers Association, California State Association of Counties, California Retailers Association, California Bottled Water Association, California Association of Local Conservation Corps, Conservation Corps, League of California Cities, Regional Council of Rural Counties, California League of Conservation Voters, and the Sierra Club.