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California bottle bill adds wine and spirits, plus last-minute funding for glass markets and recycling

Brief

A significant update to California’s bottle bill, SB 1013, will add wine and distilled spirits to the state’s container deposit system starting Jan. 1, 2024. The bill is expected to head to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk soon for his signature.

The bill will establish a 10-cent redemption value on most of the bottles. It also establishes a 25-cent refund on “difficult to recycle” wine packaging including boxes, bladders, pouches, and similar plastic containers.

Other provisions **in the bill provide millions of dollars in market development initiatives, grants for recycled glass, and funding for local programs aimed at collecting more containers. These provisions, which were added late in the process, drew pushback from prior supporters.

Insight

The legislation, among the numerous waste and recycling bills California passed in 2022, is one of the more substantial changes to the state’s container deposit systems in recent years. The state has struggled to update its bottle bill for several years amid battles over funding for the program and significant recycling center closures, which SB 1013 does not address.

Less than 30% of wine and spirit bottles in the state are recycled each year, said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Toni Atkins, in a bill report. The Container Recycling Institute estimates about 1.3 billion wine and liquor containers were sold in the state in 2019.

The bill received broad support from large haulers like Recology, Republic Services, and WM, as well as from environmental groups that saw the expansion as a common-sense addition to the bottle bill to keep more containers out of landfills. The state’s CRV system allows MRFs to redeem value from containers.

Other supporters include recycled glass processor Strategic Materials as well as big names in bottling like Anheuser-Busch and Ball Corp.

Among the amendments was a provision adding a market development initiative, directing CalRecycle to offer a total of $60 million per year through the end of 2027 to manufacturers that purchase recycled glass collected within California to use in new beverage containers.

Another amendment requires CalRecycle to create three new grant programs: one provides up to $4 million a year to encourage the use of glass cullet in new bottles; the second provides $4 million a year for regional pilot program grants providing glass collection bins at restaurants and other retail locations. The third, a $1 million annual grant, is meant to encourage the use of rail transportation to move empty glass containers to processing facilities.

The amended bill also directs CalRecycle to spend $15 million a year for curbside and neighborhood drop-off programs, $10.5 million a year for municipal and county recycling and litter cleanup activities, and $10 million a year to fund litter reduction programs through the California Conservation Corps. Other funding would bolster statewide recycling education and other community recycling initiatives.

Californians Against Waste, a notable supporter, said the bill as passed will “measurably increase” container recycling and improve recycling centers’ financial picture. In an email, CAW touted the bill’s initiatives meant to increase redemption in underserved communities and inject funding into local recycling programs.

But some have voiced concerns over the bill’s spending. CRI’s analysis of the original bill estimated it could cost $27 million to $47 million annually for the expansion. However, CRI estimates the amended bill’s updates could bring those costs to between $161 million and $201 million each year.

CRI President Susan Collins said such costs would place a strain on the program’s financial sustainability. The group had been a supporter of the bill prior to the amendments, but it has since changed its position to neutral. “Much of the spending is unnecessary, and will not result in any new recycling,” Collins said in a statement.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit whose focus includes state bottle bill reform, called the amended bill “loaded with pork for major corporations that don’t need it” and said the money would be better spent on developing more redemption access.

Liza Tucker, a consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog, said the grant programs and other funding will not help existing redemption centers that “are dying on the vine,” and instead only help larger recyclers and manufacturers.

Article Source: Waste Dive

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