By John Ramos

CONCORD (KPIX 5) — Recycling centers in California have been going out of business at an alarming rate, leading lawmakers in Sacramento consider ways to revamp the system for recycling cans and bottles.

Everyday, people line up at the Concord Recycling Center to turn in their bottles and cans. But everyone there seems to agree that California’s system could use a little more common sense.

The 5-cent “California Redemption Value” fee or CRV was created as an incentive to get people to return bottles and cans for recycling.

Concord Recycling collects about 100,000 pounds of bottles and cans each week, but General Manager Meixi Luan says the business model isn’t working anymore, driving half of the state’s redemption centers out of business.

“The system hasn’t been changed for the past 20 or 30 odd years since it’s been in place,” Luan said. “It’s due for a change.”

That change may be coming. A bill introduced in the state legislature by State Senator Bob Weickowski of Fremont would require beverage manufacturers to create and pay for a CRV redemption system that is convenient and effective enough to bring the recycling rate up to 90 percent.

“In some sense, they’re kind of entering as competitors,” Luan said. “But this is definitely going to be something consumers will appreciate if the manufacturers as well as the grocery stores are back into participation.”

By law, grocery stores are required to redeem CRV containers, but the system can be so burdensome that many stores opt to pay a $100-per-day fine rather than do that. One suggestion is to offer “reverse vending machines” that trade empty CRV containers for cash.

Another problem is that soda and beer qualify for CRV but wine and liquor bottles do not.  The proposed bill would include those containers in the CRV fee as well.

On Wednesday, Candler and Julie Kimsey redeemed six months worth of bottles and cans and walked away with almost $180. But their milk bottles were rejected, which didn’t make a lot of sense to them.

“If you’re gonna do it, you shouldn’t do it halfway. If you’re gonna recycle some stuff, don’t reject other stuff,” Candler said. “And it would be a lot simpler if it was altogether in one.”

Simpler is the goal and Luan says there isn’t a lot of time to waste.

“They need to hurry up,” she said. “The few recyclers that are still out there, they really need help. It’s a dire situation out here.”

She said what would really help the industry immediately would be if California raised the price of CRV from 5 cents to 10 cents like it is in Oregon. If passed, the current bill would require beverage manufactures to have a new system up and running by 2024.

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