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California bottle recycling law may soon cover these containers

More bottles will be recyclable now that California updated its recycling law. | Source: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

California lawmakers have approved an update to the state's bottle recycling law that will add an estimated 200 million containers per year into the recycling stream by including fruit and vegetable juice containers.

Senate Bill 353, proposed by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, was approved by the state Legislature late Thursday and is now headed for Gov. Gavin Newsom's desk.

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The measure seeks to bolster California's beverage container recycling program, reducing the amount of plastic and glass going into landfills and helping to stabilize the recycling market, Dodd's office said on Friday.

"We're taking a big step toward cutting our state's waste stream while uplifting our recycling program," Sen. Dodd said in a statement. "This bill reduces the amount of recyclables we put into landfills, provides a financial lifeline to recyclers, and maximizes consumers' options for redeeming deposits on beverage containers. Ultimately, it will help us meet our recycling goals."

The California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, established in 1986, encourages consumers to recycle beverage containers by requiring them to pay a deposit for eligible bottles.

Over the years, the program has been expanded to include soda, beer and wine bottles. However, it does not include larger or vegetable juice containers. The program has been plagued with volatile annual scrap valuations that threaten many recyclers in rural, underserved communities, Dodd's office said.

SB 353 would add containers of 100% fruit juice and vegetable juice to the state's bottle recycling law, putting another 200 million containers per year into the recycling stream. It would also invest new ongoing funding to support rural recycling options for consumers to redeem their deposits and improve recycling rates.

Californians Against Waste executive director Mark Murray said the measure will increase consumer opportunities to recycle and get cash back on empty containers.

"All juice beverages, regardless of container size, will now have a refund, and recycling payments for new and existing recycling centers will be stabilized against scrap market fluctuations," Murray said in a statement.

The bill also authorizes the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery to adjust its processing of payment calculations for recyclers to a quarterly schedule rather than yearly, helping to stabilize the market. Lastly, the bill improves transparency on recycling metrics and allows the department to make critical efficiency improvements.

SB 353 follows the Legislature's passage of a bill authored last year by Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Sen. Dodd to add wine and spirits containers to the program and make significant investments in recycling.

Plastic Recycling Corporation of California executive director Sally Houghton commended the passage of the law, as it is expected to increase recycling rates.

"As the stewardship organization for plastic containers in California's bottle bill, we commend (Sen. Dodd) for expanding the bottle bill to include all juice bottles and to make the system more responsive to market forces," Houghton said in a statement Friday.

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