Concerned that consumers are not recycling many of the containers that California recently added to its bottle deposit program, the state launched a $10 million advertising campaign over the Memorial Day weekend, its largest such effort ever.
The promotion is designed to get more Californians to recycle away from home and get residents to recycle the plastic containers that state officials pinpoint as a primary reason for a declining recycling rate.
About two-thirds of the containers California added to its bottle bill in 2000 are PET, but consumers do not recycle or return many of them for deposits. The state's PET recycling rate has dropped from 65 percent in 1999 to 34 percent last year.
State officials believe that's because consumers are not aware that there are deposits on the containers, which include water bottles and sports drinks. By comparison, the recycling rates for glass and aluminum fell by only six and four percentage points, respectively.
``A lot of the new containers were plastic containers that did not have the learning curve attached to them,'' said Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the California Department of Conservation, which administers the bottle bill program.
Overall, the state recycled 61 percent of its bottle bill containers in 2000, down from 74 percent in 1999. State officials said they expected a decline, just not by that much.
``We were surprised by the size of the decline,'' Oldfield said. ``Certainly we had hoped that the education outreach we had done at the beginning, when this first expanded, would have resonated better.''
However, the declining recycling rate does not mean fewer containers are collected, said Patricia Moore, executive director of the Plastic Recycling Corporation of California, in Sonoma. Instead, the deposits cover more containers - 16.6 billion in 2000, compared with 13.2 billion in 1999.
PET recycling rates dropped because 3.2 billion PET containers were covered by deposits in 2000, compared with 1.2 billion in 1999, Moore said. About 1.2 billion PET containers were recycled in 2000, compared with 830 million in 1999.
The state is funding the ads from unredeemed deposits, which have swelled from $100 million a year to $175 million with the additional containers, Oldfield said. It's not clear if the advertising program will be repeated in 2002; Oldfield said the state legislature only authorized it for this year. The state is spending six times more on recycling advertising than it did a year ago.
The American Plastics Council is set to launch its own $200,000 recycling promotion across California in June, said Tim Shestek, manager of state and local public affairs with APC's Sacramento office. The effort will include grocery store promotions and public events.