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July 2004

California Strives to Capture Trashed Glass Bottles Worth an Estimated $70 Million in Cash Each Year

Sacramento, CA— Billions of glass bottles once filled with beer and other cold drinks are leaving more than a trail of quenched thirst in California. Many are beating a regrettable path to trash bins when they could instead be recycled to save energy, natural resources and money.

In 2002 alone, Californians bought an estimated 2.7 billion bottles of beer and 700 million other beverages sold in glass containers. But according to research released by the California Department of Conservation, almost half of these glass bottles are going into garbage cans instead of recycling bins each day. Over the course of a year, that amounts to more than 1.6 billion bottles.

Recycling glass beverage containers carries significant monetary incentives for consumers and businesses alike. The bottles trashed each year are worth more than $70 million in unclaimed California Refund Value (CRV) deposits.

In response to this situation, the state Department of Conservation wants to raise awareness about the loss of glass and to encourage bars and restaurants to implement recycling programs. Businesses stand to collectively save millions of dollars on waste hauling bills by having their bottles taken to recycling centers instead of local dumps.

“Glass has always been on the cutting edge of recycling,” said Darryl Young, director of the DOC. “Recycling glass bottles is a great opportunity for California’s bars and restaurants. Not only is it a positive reflection on companies to take an active role in helping the environment, but it can also help with the bottom line, add to employee benefits or create more jobs.”

Since glass can be recycled over and over again, 1.6 billion bottles also represent a significant conservation of energy and raw materials. If recycled, they would save the equivalent of 10 million gallons of gas, or 112 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 8,500 Los Angeles homes for 12 months, according to DOC calculations based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Waste Reduction Model.

“Beer drinkers have long been told to ‘drink responsibly’,” said Young. “Restaurants and bars think it’s a good idea to recycle responsibly, too.”

The DOC has created a special CRV calculator on its Web site, www.bottlesandcans.com, which allows businesses to determine how much of the $70 million in CRV could be theirs if they recycle. Additionally, the calculator can show bars and restaurants how much money they might be able to save off their waste-hauling bill.

With its new glass recycling effort, the DOC will reach out to bars and restaurants statewide. Through a relationship with the California Restaurant Association, DOC is working to educate the organization’s members on how to implement recycling programs successfully. Representatives from the DOC Division of Recycling will be available to help guide bars, restaurants and other businesses in setting up recycling for their employees and customers.

Beverage manufacturers such as Anheuser-Busch, Coors Brewing Company and Miller Brewing Company have also voiced their support for glass recycling. Joining them is glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois and the Glass Packaging Institute, noting that a reliable stream of clean, recycled glass is important in the production of new glass bottles in California.

California Refund Value is 4 cents on containers less than 24 ounces, 8 cents on containers 24 ounces and larger. Many beverages commonly packaged in glass, such as beer, sports drinks, juices and coffee and tea drinks, are included in the CRV program, as are many drinks that come in aluminum and plastic containers. Among the notable products not included in the program are milk, wine and distilled spirits. For a comprehensive list of products subject to CRV, visit http://www.conservation.ca.gov/DOR/CRVinOutList.pdf.

Source: California Department of Conservation (CDOC)

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