California Sees Dramatic Drop in Beverage Container Recycling Rate

Sacramento, CA - California's beverage container recycling rate suffered an alarming decline in 2000 to 61 percent as more than six billion containers were thrown away instead of recycled, according to figures released by the California Department of Conservation.

To stop the drop in recycling, the department is launching a campaign to motivate Californians to recycle more.

"Recycling is one of those things where more is always better," said Darryl Young, California Department of Conservation director. "Californians can do more."

The trashed aluminum, glass and plastic represents an estimated $158 million in unredeemed California Refund Value (CRV) deposits. Laid end-to-end, the unrecycled beverage containers would circle the earth nearly seven times.

The total number of recycled containers, 10.2 billion in 2000, has remained fairly stable for the past 10 years. However, last year's new bottle bill added some 3.4 billion containers to the program. A decline in the recycling rate was not wholly unexpected, but the size of the drop -- from 74 percent to 61 percent -- came as a surprise.

"We expected a drop, but not like this," said Young. "We're Californians, we're supposed to know more about recycling."

The average recycling rate during the 1990s was 77 percent. The addition of new CRV containers- many of them plastic, which historically has been recycled at lower rates than aluminum, is cited by the department as a primary reason for the decline.

Young also pointed to the on-the-go lifestyle of many Californians as a factor. According to recent focus group research conducted by the department, Californians are more mobile than ever and less likely to recycle while away from home. Additionally, consumer beverage consumption in recent years has grown to include bottled water and sports drinks, generally marketed in plastic containers.

"Many people don't realize a plastic beverage container is redeemed for the same value as an aluminum or glass container," Young said.

The campaign - which utilizes television, print and radio advertisements, as well as billboards and an Internet site is designed to motivate Californians to recycle more.

The theme for the campaign is "Recycle. It's good for the bottle. It's good for the can."

"We need to do more than raise awareness in the minds of Californians, we need to change behavior," Young said. "That's why the outreach campaign is so important."

California is one of 10 states with a beverage container recycling program. The Department of Conservation administers the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, which became law in 1986. The primary goal of the act is to achieve and maintain high recycling rates for each beverage container type included in the program.

Consumers pay CRV (California Refund Value) when they purchase beverages from a retailer. The deposits are refunded when empty containers are redeemed through local recycling centers. More information on the state's beverage container recycling program is available at or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.

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