California’s recycling rate is well below official state goals, leading some to look for a fix to the bottle bill program.
There are a couple of reform bills pending in the state legislature, including a new bill that would shift the burden of recycling to bottle distributors. CalRecycle, the state agency that runs the bottle deposit program, proposes an overhaul of its own, but through the state budget process.
CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner joined CapRadio host Randol White to discuss the plan.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Let’s start with the refunds themselves, which are currently a full return of the five cents you deposit at the time of purchase. How would that change?
So this is very exciting because of consumers purchasing so many more beverage containers during the pandemic. We have an influx of several $100 million, and so we are proposing $100 million go back directly to consumers as a double rebate.
Organizations that track the low bottle return rates say there are too many areas that lack places to redeem recyclables and some blame insufficient enforcement … How might you use this money to address those issues?
Part of the money is going to go to grants and contracts to provide direct access to the recycling centers and recycling system
And so we’re looking at contracting for mobile recycling in areas of the state, primarily rural areas of the state that do not have access to the system right now.
[There will be] grants for reverse vending machines to grocers and some of our public institutions. Some of the challenges in our rural areas need to be addressed in a more creative way and so that we’re looking to use these funds to implement some of that creative solution.
So these adjustments to use some of the money that has been collected, if they’re able to make it through this budget process, when might we see these go into effect?
So the budget process is for the fiscal year. So my hope is that they would be approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor in June and July, and then we would embark on implementing immediately.
It would take us a few months to get everything up and running. But all of what the governor is proposing in this spring finance action should be able to be implemented in a few short months.
Correction: A previous version of this story's headline misidentified how far along in the process this new program was. It has been corrected.
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