JULY 2008

Higher California container refund value lead to record recycling volume

Californians recycled a record 14.7 billion beverage containers in 2007, 1.5 billion more bottles and cans than in 2006, according to the state Department of Conservation (DOC).

As a result, the annual recycling rate for California Refund Value (CRV) aluminum, glass and plastic containers rose to 67 percent, up 7 percentage points from 2006.

“This is tremendous news for California and the environment,” DOC director Bridgett Luther said. “By recycling a remarkable number of containers in 2007, it’s clear that Californians are doing more than ever to conserve natural resources, provide valuable raw materials for new products, and reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.”

State Assembly member Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), author of legislation that increased California Refund Value to a nickel for containers less than 24 ounces and a dime for containers 24 ounces and larger, called the added incentive a catalyst in giving California its highest beverage container recycling volume ever.

Recycling rates were up for all material types - aluminum rose to 79 percent in 2007 from 72 the previous year; glass to 67 percent from 59; and plastic to 54 percent from 47. Sales of CRV beverages remained flat at 21.9 billion units in 2007, meaning the significant increase in recycling volume was achieved despite no increase in the number of containers available to recycle.

Most recycled aluminum and glass is used to manufacture new cans and bottles, resulting in significant energy savings when compared to the mining, transportation and processing required to make the products out of raw materials. Plastic bottles and petroleum products are turned into fiber for clothing and carpet, or pellets that can be manufactured into items such as packaging or landscape materials, often at significant energy savings.

Most beverages packaged in glass, aluminum and plastic, such as soft drinks, water, beer, sports drinks, juices and coffee and tea drinks, are included in the CRV program. Notable exceptions are milk, wine and distilled spirits.

All aspects of the state’s beverage container recycling program are paid for with unclaimed refunds from discarded CRV beverage containers, at no cost to the state’s general fund.