Wine news | California may expand its recycling of wine and liquor bottles.

California is attempting to expand its faltering recycling program by including wine and distilled liquor containers.



California's SACRAMENTO (AP) — Under a proposal moving forward on Wednesday, California would add wine and distilled spirits containers to its troubled recycling program while also providing beverage retailers another way to collect empty bottles and cans. However, detractors claim that the bill would also distribute hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses that don't require the incentives.


Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting, who sponsored the legislation in the Assembly, called it "a huge chance" to divert hundreds of tonnes of rubbish from landfills. "This legislation will be a giant leap."

The proposal by Senate President pro-Tempore Toni Atkins also allows distributors to create a cooperative organization to collect the containers as an alternative to the present legislation that mandates merchants to take back the empty containers.


In recent years, fewer consumers have been able to receive their deposit returns due to the closure of some community recycling facilities. According to the consumer protection organization Consumer Watchdog, numerous supermarket stores have been refusing to accept returned empties in-store as required.

The measure does not specify how the cooperative would operate, but it does mandate that distributors submit their proposal for approval to state authorities. Additionally, it would raise the fines for breaking the statute from the current $1,000 to $5,000 per day and $5,000 to $10,000 per day for willful offenses.


When purchasing a 12-ounce (355 milliliters) bottle or can in California, buyers pay a cent, and for containers larger than 24 ounces, they pay a dime (709 milliliters).


As an incentive to ensure that the bottles and cans are recycled into new items rather than ending up in landfills, they are intended to receive their money back when they return the bottles and cans.

The plan calls for a 25-cent deposit and reimbursement on bottles of wine and distilled spirits that are sold in boxes, bags, or pouches.


According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, deposit programs that include those containers already exist in Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, and Vermont.


According to estimates from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle, including wine and spirits, would cost the state more than $6 million annually starting in 2024 and add about $18 million more annually to the recycling fund.

In addition to state-funded mobile recycling initiatives in rural areas and other places with few recycling alternatives, Gov. Gavin Newsom's administration has proposed subsidies for automated recycling machines, also known as reverse vending machines, at high schools, colleges, and retail locations. To promote recycling and return a share of the approximately $600 million in unclaimed deposits, it has also suggested temporarily doubling the returns; however, this double refund is not included in the present proposal.


The objections from Consumer Watchdog, Container Recycling Institute, and The Story of Stuff Project were that Atkins' proposal contained too much pork for businesses, costing close to $400 million over the following five years for quality incentives and market development that the organizations contend are unnecessary.

The largest glass container company in the country, Gallo Glass Company, owned by E&J Gallo Winery, would receive $300 million of that, according to their claims.



Consumer Watchdog's Liza Tucker stated in a statement that consumer deposits "shouldn't underwrite extremely profitable firms like Gallo." "These funds solely benefit the larger recyclers and manufacturers, not the current redemption facilities that are dying on the vine."




The Recycling Institute withdrew its sponsorship because it believed the awards would make it more difficult for the program to be financially sustainable.

The distributors' cooperative provision of the measure, which is similar to earlier legislative proposals, received support from Consumer Watchdog. If the rules are properly written and applied, that option "could work to create better access," the group claimed.


However, the measure passed the Assembly on a 54-0 vote with no verbal protests. Before being sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, it was going to the Senate for a final vote.


Democratic Assemblyman Adam Gray argued that the lengthy, intensive deliberations that took place on this matter "were done the right way." "We've solved the problem... positive for the sector and California as a whole.

Without mentioning the grants, Atkins claimed that her bill's inclusion of wine and liquor containers would "avoid consumer confusion," with the potential to more than double the current 30% recycling rate for those containers. Additionally, she said that her plan offers retailers "a new way to compliance" with the state's recycling regulations.


By prohibiting cash payments from processors to recyclers, a second bill that will be introduced by Newsom aims to assist eliminate recycling fraud.


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