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CA Increases Incentive for Recycling

California consumers can now get more money for recycling their bottles and cans. Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has more on the statewide incentive program.

California consumers can now get more money for recycling their bottles and cans. Full Focus reporter Heather Hill has more on the statewide incentive program. When you buy beverages in aluminum cans or glass and plastic bottles at a California supermarket, you pay a deposit fee on top of the price of the beverage. Then, when you recycle those items, you can get that money back. Now, for the first time since the early nineties, Californians can get a bigger refund than they pay out for a limited time. State officials hope this will be the motivation people need to re-commit to recycling.

Two years ago, 61 percent of beverage containers were recycled in California. But officials from the state Department of Conservation want to do better. They have a goal of 80 percent, and to reach it, they've changed the California Refund Value or CRV. That's the amount recycling centers pay consumers for their empty bottles and cans. Small containers are now worth a nickel each, while those larger than 24 ounces are worth a dime. Officials say a lag in recycling prompted the decision to offer the refund boost.

Chuck Seidler: The recycling rate has declined over a long period of time and that is a major reason to increase the CRV. The value of CRV decreases over time with inflation. We have raised it in prior years, and each time we see a significant increase in the recycling rate.

But consumers still have to take their bottles and cans to a recycling center to get the cash refund. So if you put your containers out for curb-side removal, or don't recycle, where does the money you paid at the store in CRV charges go? 

Seidler: Primarily we have a lot of other programs that are all encouraging recycling. We have grants to local governments and to facilities like this to improve their recycling processes. So, the money that does not go back out to the consumer, or recycling programs such as curbside, goes back into other programs that encourage the recycling rate to increase.

Come July 1, the CRV charge at the checkout stand will be increased to equal the refund rate offered to recyclers. Until then, consumers can earn extra from recycling because they'll continue to pay last year's charges but earn the higher refund.