Senate Committee approves Wieckowski bill to reform broken beverage recycling system

SB 372 creates an extended producer responsibility program that reduces costs for consumers

January 15, 2020

Sacramento – With California’s bottle recycling program in tatters, the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee today approved a bill by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to create a new streamlined stewardship program that places redemption and recycling responsibilities on distributors operating inside the state.

“Our recycling system is broken and antiquated,” said Wieckowski, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review’s subcommittee on Resources, Environmental Protection, Energy and Transportation.  “We have amended the original bottle bill more than 75 times.  “Applying more Band-Aids to a broken system will not solve the problem.  SB 372 will move us to an extended producer responsibility model that reduces the state’s bureaucratic function so that CalRecycle’s focus will be on oversight and enforcement.  The program would be run by the private sector at no cost to the taxpayer.  This will add more convenience for consumers and more locations to recycle. That’s the model that is successful in Oregon where the recycling rates are much higher than in California.”

Oregon created the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative that is run by distributors and retailers and has more locations for consumers to turn in their beverage containers.  Companies such as Waste Management, Coca Cola, Safeway and Whole Foods are among the participants in the Oregon program.

Under SB 372, distributors of beverages must form a Beverage Container Stewardship Organization. The organization must then submit a plan and budget for the redemption and recycling of beverage containers to be approved by CalRecycle.  Wine and distilled spirits bottles would also be included in the new program.  The stewardship program would become operational in January 2024.

“I congratulate Senator Wieckowski on introducing SB 372, which recognizes that no amount of short-term fixes to the current system will allow the program to operate sustainably in the long term,” said Sarah Edwards, the head of the New York office of Eunomia, an independent consulting firm that put out a report last year on California’s beverage container program.  “While we recognize that further work is needed to the bill, the principles of an extended producer responsibility program that will enable consumers to conveniently reclaim their CRV (California Refund Value) is key to ensuring California is an environmental leader.”

In Governor Newsom’s summary of his recently released state budget, he said “the California Beverage Container Recycling Program is an example of a system that provides clean, recyclable material, but is also in need of reform.  The Administration will continue to collaborate with the Legislature to determine needed reforms, with a focus on consumer access.”

Wieckowski said his legislation builds on recommendations from stakeholder meetings during Gov. Jerry Brown’s final term, the Legislative Analyst’s Office and previous Senate Environmental Quality oversight hearings on recycling.

SB 372 is supported by Consumer Watchdog, Environment California, Californians Against Waste, National Stewardship Action Council, TOMRA, and The Story of Stuff Project.

Senator Wieckowski represents the 10th District, which includes southern Alameda County and parts of Santa Clara County.