California has passed a bill that could change the state’s bottle deposit program by requiring the beverage industry to create an accessible recycling and redemption system for its bottles and cans. SB 38 (D-Wieckowski) passed 23 to 8 in the state’s Senate, and the bill now heads to California’s Assembly.
According to the bill’s language, the legislation aims to require distributors of beverage containers in the state to form a beverage container stewardship organization. The organization would be required to develop and submit to the California Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) a plan, annual report and a budget for the recovery and recycling of empty beverage containers in the state similar to what’s involved in the state’s Used Mattress Recovery and Recycling Act.
Additionally, the bill would require the organization to establish a stewardship fee to be paid by distributor members of the organization to assist in covering the costs of implementing the beverage container stewardship program. The bill would require the organization to reimburse the department for its costs of enforcing the program. The bill would require the department to deposit all money submitted for reimbursement into the Beverage Container Stewardship Fund, which the bill would create in the State Treasury. The bill would also impose administrative civil penalties for a violation of the provisions.
“This is a great day for California consumers because the state Senate went on record in support of bringing our outdated recycling system into the 21st century,” says California Sen. Bob Wieckowski, who introduced the legislation. “If we are serious about creating a circular economy, we must support SB 38. Putting more Band-Aids on the status quo might make the special interests who support it and prosper from it feel good, but it will not make it more convenient for consumers to find redemption sites. SB 38 builds on the best practices of other states and nations that have achieved higher redemption rates and greater access to sites than California. Consumers will no longer be nickel-and-dimed to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars by a failed system.”
SB 38, if passed by the Assembly and the governor, will be enacted July 1, 2024, revising provisions of the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act and would be renamed the Beverage Container Recycling Program.
According to Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Los Angeles, the consumer redemption rate in California is at 57 percent currently. The organization reports that Oregon and Michigan have higher consumer redemption rates at 86 and 89 percent, respectively.
“California’s bottle deposit program is in such disrepair that consumers only receive their nickel and dime deposits back a little more than half the time and as result too many cans and bottles go to landfills,” says Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog regarding SB 38. “SB 38 hits restart and requires the beverage industry to establish thousands of convenient recycling and redemption points across the state so consumers get their deposits back and bottles and cans avoid contamination that happens in curbside bins.”
According to Consumer Watchdog, SB 38 would force the beverage industry to “arrange for convenient redemption of bottle and can deposits, holding it to an 85 percent redemption standard.” The organization reports that the waste hauling industry opposes SB 38.