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Monday, January 29, 2007

California’s Redemption Value Increase – Where does your money go?

In 2007, the state of California raised the California Redemption Value or CRV for recyclable goods like bottles, cans and containers. That means that when you walk into your local grocery store of choice or Costco and pickup that 24-pack of Dr. Pepper, you will be paying about $.02 more per can. This is refundable of course, if you return your cans to a local recycling or refund center.

There has been an awful lot of advertising about these changes, encouraging people to recycle. In fact, I do not think I have gone through a day yet where I have not seen a commercial on the television or heard something on the radio talking about the new CRV values.

I started thinking about this, which bring me to an interesting. Where is my share – should I be received some additional CRV rebates? The reason I ask this, is that living in Thousand Oaks, California – I have been required to recycle for a number of years and even have a special blue trash can from WMI where I put all my recyclables. This is a great thing, having different trash cans including one for items that are recyclable makes recycling easy without the pain of having separate trash cans to put all of my bottles, cans, and containers in.

Now, back to get back to my question – how does this work? The reason I ask this is that I pay a good chunk of each month to WMI (Waste Management – GI Industries) each month so that they can pick up my garbage, yard waste and recyclables. If the CRV values have gone up close to 40%, should we all receive discounts on our bill? What happens to all of those bottles, cans, and containers that I throw away? Surely someone is receiving the CRV refunds for everything I pay for. Don’t they?

I called WMI to find out what the deal is. The people there were very helpful and eager to explain to me how they and the state of California run their recycling programs. Waste Management end up with absolutely no compensation from the recyclables that they process. Thus, none of this value is passed back to the consumers. The only way to get credit on your California redemption value is by taking it to an authorized CRV redemption center.
The real question then becomes, what happens to the CRV that we all pay at the grocery store?

If we are not receiving it as the consumers and the waste management folks are not receiving the cut? Well, what happens is that the state of California has a pot of this money in the treasury for “unclaimed” or “unredeemed” CRV funds.

These funds are used in a variety of ways, including all of the below:

  • Recycling funds are used to pay CRV to recyclers (to reimburse them for paying CRV to consumers).
  • Competitive Grants - $1,500,000 per year
  • Competitive Grants to Community Conservation Corps - $20 million from 7/1/07 to 6/30/08
  • Curbside Supplemental Payments - Annual payments of $15 million to curbside recycling programs
  • Grants to Local Conservation Corps - $15 million per year plus a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA)
  • Handling Fees - Annual payments of $33 million to supermarket-sited recycling centers
  • Local Government or Non-Profit Agency Grants - $5 million from 1/1/07 to 1/1/08 for the placement of recycling receptacles in multifamily housing in low-income communities
  • Market Development Grants – Increases annual appropriation from $10 million to $20 million and extends sunset date from 1/1/07 until 1/1/12
  • Market Development Payment Program for Plastics – $5 million annually until 1/1/12 to certified entities or plastic manufacturers
  • Payments to Cities and Counties - $10.5 million per year for beverage container recycling and litter cleanup activities
  • Program Administration - Approximately $35 million per year for support of the Division of Recycling
  • Quality Incentive Payments - $15 million per year to curbside recycling programs and dropoff or collection programs to promote the recycling of glass, plastic and aluminum beverage containers that meet specified quality standards
  • Recycling Incentive Payments - $10 million annually until 1/1/10 to recycling centers or dropoff or collection programs that increase their volume of recycled beverage containers
  • Recycling Receptacles at State Parks - $5 million on a one-time basis, effective 1/1/07
  • Statewide Public Education and Information Campaign - $5 million until 1/1/08

Any funds not spent on mandated purposes remain in the State Treasury until appropriated by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. The thumbnail image to the right shows the flow of funds through the recycling program. Click on it for a bigger picture.

The only question that I still have is that the state has set a target of 75% recycling or else they will continue to increase the California redemption value. What I have not discovered is how they measure that – from a combination of both waste processors and recycling centers, or just the recycling centers. The methodology would make a huge difference given that a large number of us toss all of our bottles, cans, and containers in our recycle bin rather than going down to our local recycling center.

Recycling is important for us all. Now you know how both recycling and California’s redemption value program works and where your money goes!


H. Hepler said...

WMI most certainly does receive compensation for the recyclables you place in your blue bin -- they just don't receive any California Redemption Value for the recyclables you place in your blue bin. They do, however, receive scrap value for these materials. To put that in perspective, the current scrap price for a large volume customer such as a MRF for aluminum cans would be around 83¢/lb, a far cry from the $1.85/Lb consumers are currently receiving in certain metropolitan areas when they recycle CRV aluminum cans themselves. The return for plastic, glass, bi-metal, newspaper, cardboard, and steel cans is, of course, much less; however these items still carry a significant scrap value in large quantities. These companies surely use the revenue generated from these items to offset the cost of maintaining/upgrading sorting & processing equipment, labor, and transportation.

Anybody who wants a return on his or her family's recyclables is welcome to segregate, store, and transport these items to the recycling center of his or her choice. Most people couldn't be bothered with such things. We should rejoice in the fact that the trash collection companies are not penalizing their customers for not properly using the "blue bin"; they could do that, you know.

Ken Hanscom said...

You do make an excellent clarifying point that I failed to mention. They are free to collect the scrap portion of the funds, just not the California Redemption Value (CRV) that the state of California recently increased. Thanks for accurately pointing this out!

However, I have seen some cities and am aware of some neighbors that have been fined for putting inappropriate or incorrect materials in a container for repeat offenses. Which, if it is a law and it is being abused -- it is an appropriate response.

Anonymous said...

I will continue to recycle, but the California system makes me want to just dump it all in the regular green bins. Why? Even if one does take one's cans etc. to a redemption center, the consumer still loses out because the CRV on your grocery receipt is taxed!Still water and 100% fruit juice is exempt, but not 100% sparkling fruit juice. I resent having this extra money taken out of my wallet.

Anonymous said...

Water is not exempt, at least Costco sure doesn't seem to think so.

Anonymous said...

I am a bit upset at the entire CRV system in California. If I pay for example $.05 per "beer bottle", but when I return to an authorized recycling center, I am receiving only $.02 per bottle. The same goes for cans and plastic containers. I understand there are processing fees and transportation costs involving these recycling centers, but give me a break. If the state is going to charge me $.05 per bottle, I should be able to receive that money back when I return the empty container.

Anonymous said...

water is not exempt at Stater Bros. 10 cents a container.

Ken Hanscom said...

Possibly true. These were the new CRV values for 2007. Given that it is 2008, the laws could have change.


Anonymous said...

My twin 5 year old boys wanted a 'job' to earn money for a toy. I had them count the CRV containers that had been piling up. We took them to the redemption center expecting to get back $78.30.

We told the attendant how many we had and were then informed about the "weight" rule and "50-count" limit. Our refund- only $42.85.

So, heartbroken kids and someone has $35.45 of my money!

Let's be honest here. This is not CRV. In fact it's a tax. There's no practical way to 'redeem' the cabs & bottles for the 'value' paid.

Ken Hanscom said...

Wow, that is an intersteing occurrence. It is the first I have heard about weight and limits. I wonder if each boy would have submitted individually if it would have been ok?

Sounds like the wrong lesson that the state of California taught your boys.


zardiw said...

Just one more RIPOFF from the Peoples RepubliK of Kalifornia.

Remember the old days when you got BACK 5 cents for the 5 cents you PAID.

I remember cashing in bottles when I was a kid.....those days are gone forever, thanks to GREEDY politicians....CRV my ass.

Only 2 states give back what they charge, ME, and HI..........z

blake said...

I've linked this over on my blog.


Thanks for the informative post. I wouldn't have had the patience to do all that leg work.

Tim said...

The difference in the refund you received and the refund you expected may have been caused by the type of containers you redeemed. I work in the industry, so let me explain. Plastic bottles and aluminum cans are now being manufactured using less material. Especially the plastic water bottles. I did an experiment using the newer contour shape half-liter water bottles from Arrowhead. I weighed 20 empty bottles and the cash total was .55 instead of the $1.00 it should have been. (20 X .05) The results are about the same for every brand of bottled water of that same size. However, some plastic bottles like Gatorade, PowerAde, and any 3-liter bottle are heavier than the average bottle and you will get paid more by weight than you actually paid for them. The state takes a sampling of thousands of different types and sizes of containers, weighing each container individually. They then take the over-all average weight of all of the containers sampled, multiply by the price of each container (either .05 or .10) and set the CRV rate.

Find a location that has RVM's and feed your containers individually. You get paid for each container and there is no limit to how many you can redeem. Here is a tip: Feed the water bottles through the machine and have your thicker and heavier containers weighed. You will actually come out ahead.

Erik said...

I live on the central coast in California. I recently went down to a local CRV redemption center and was surprised at the amount I got back.
I had 118 cans, 35 plastic bottles, and about 45 glass bottles. Added up, 198 bottles at 5 cents a bottle, that's $9.90.

I got back $11.05. I was stoked.

I'm going back there for sure.
Thought I put out a positive CRV story.

steve zoom said...

these crv redemption drop off places like in front of supermarkets and the like are rip offs 4 sure. hwo checks the scales at these places and who's to say they don't mess with the calibrations after whoever checks them. It can't be that hard to readjust those scales to work on the side of the redemption centers. and who do you prosecute for the offenses when they are caught?

Anonymous said...

Just came back from recycling center, where I took plastic water bottles that I paid 5cents each CRV at the store and was told they only weigh the bottles now (new state rule) which ends up returning about 1/2 of what I paid. I was told this went into effect Nov. 11, 2010
What is up with that?