In a press release on Friday, the California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle) announced that they would be bringing a new $330 million proposal to the California legislature to greatly increase mobile recycling and reverse vending machine programs across the state.
According to CalRecycle, $100 million of the plan would go to installing 2,000 reverse vending machines to collect recyclables at high schools, colleges, and retailers. Another $100 million would go towards bonus recycling credits for those participating in the new mobile recycling program, as well as those who use reverse vending machines, doubling their refunds for a period of time.
The proposal would also put forward $55 million to boost recycling and returns in rural and less wealthy areas with mobile recycling programs that don’t rely on a permanent fixed location to collect recyclables. Another $25 million would be pumped into new infrastructure and technology for costs associated with redemptions, as well as an expanded administration.
Finally, part of the proposal would go towards fulfilling legal obligations due to the passage of AB 793 in 2020 by putting $50 million towards improving beverage container quality to allow more to get recycled.
CalRecycle also noted that the proposal, if accepted into the state budget, would help not only meet its 80% beverage container recycling goal, but would also help meet California’s recycled glass and plastic minimum content goals.
— CalRecycle (@CalRecycle) April 1, 2022
A $330 million proposal
CalRecycle Director Rachel Wagoner explained on Friday that they want to increase recycling in California, with the proposal targeting groups not well served with mobile recycling, as well as all Californians by increasing redemption refunds and bringing recycling into more convenient areas.
“This surplus belongs to California consumers and we want to get that money back in their pockets through bonus recycling credits and more convenient redemption options,” said Wagner. “These targeted investments would create more chances to recycle in areas without recycling centers and offer double California Redemption Value (CRV) refunds to get surplus deposits back to Californians.”
“Californians want to recycle and they’re doing their part with the return of 18.5 billion bottles and cans last (fiscal) year. That’s a nearly 70 percent recycling rate. We can get closer to 100 percent recycling by giving Californians more redemption options and new opportunities to succeed.”
While praised by many on Friday, some within the recycling industry questioned how new redemptions would work on a long-term basis and how the state would combat out of state cans from being redeemed in California.
“When California had reverse vending machines everywhere some years ago, people coming in from Nevada and Arizona were a huge problem,” said former recycling center manager Antonio Bocanegra to the Globe on Friday. “And it is still a major issue today.”
According to Consumer Watchdog, the Department loses $200 million annually to fraudsters, with the largest number from out of state residents bringing in cans to California to recycle and get redemption funds. However, CalRecycle contests these figures being based on older data before the program was set up by CalRecycle, with the Department also noting that they have upped enforcement of out of state recycles since audits in 2010 and 2014.
“If you are putting centers or collecting in more rural areas or more around stores, the problem is only going to get worse. We need a firm proof system in place, but if we did that, far less people would recycle.”
“There’s a lot desired of this plan by CalRecycle. They aren’t seeing a lot of problems. Redemption machine breakdown costs for example. I’m not seeing anywhere in the budget put aside in keeping all those machines in order. That’s what did them in last time. They aren’t learning from those past mistakes it seems.”
The legislature is expected to consider CalRecycles proposal in the coming months.