The California Legislature voted Sept. 13 to increase the refund value of containers in the state's bottle-bill system and decrease the fees the beverage industry pays to support recycling.
The bill, which passed in the waning hours of the legislative session, is the result of political bargaining that supporters said offers something for both environmentalists and industry. But the beverage industry is split, with beer and glass bottle makers supporting it and PET bottle manufacturers undecided.
The environmental community and recyclers expect the bill to boost the state's container recycling rate, while bottle and container makers get a reprieve from a court decision that had raised the fees they pay to support recycling.
It's not clear if Gov. Gray Davis will sign the bill. He vetoed a bill last year with the industry fee provisions.
Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste in Sacramento, said environmental groups support the higher refund values for containers as a way to boost recycling rates.
Recycling rates for containers covered by the state's bottle bill dropped from 74 percent in 1999 to 59 percent last year, after California added many new containers, like water and juice bottles, to the deposit system. Including new types of PET containers was the main reason the rate dropped, he said.
Boosting the refund value to 4 cents per container for bottles under 24 ounces is designed to raise the recycling rate to more than 75 percent, Murray said. The redemption value had been 2.5 cents. Most other states with bottle bills have refund values of 5-10 cents.
If the bill passes and the recycling rate does not rise above 75 percent by 2006, the legislation will raise the refund value another penny, to 5 cents.
For industry, the bill would result in California PET and high density polyethylene bottle makers savings millions of dollars a year in fees, while manufacturers of bottles made from PVC, polypropylene, polystyrene and other plastic materials are likely to see fee increases.
The bill would tie fees more closely to recycling rates - lower rates, like those for PVC, would mean higher fees.
Murray said PET bottle makers would see their fees drop from about $24 million to $11 million, while the HDPE sector would see fees decrease from $5.2 million to $4.2 million. Money from unredeemed container deposits would be used to make up the difference.
The Plastic Recycling Corp. of California, an organization of PET bottle makers, has not decided if it supports the bill, said Ralph Simoni, a Sacramento lobbyist for the group.
Murray said he thinks Davis will sign the bill. Last year, Davis vetoed similar legislation that dealt only with the processing fee, but that measure did not include an increase in the refund value for containers.