Recycling rates for plastic bottles and other beverage containers are higher than ever before in California.
However, the department that runs and funds the state's recycling program, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, faces heavy criticism this month over financial and auditing practices in its programs.
In a 61-page report sent to the governor and state Legislature, Auditor Elaine Howle recounts missed opportunities for revenue, lax accounting and auditing practices and ineffective supervision.
Because of forecasting deficiencies, the department was not always able to reliably project the revenues and expenditures in the beverage fund, Howle wrote in a public letter attached to the report.
Moreover, ineffective supervision and errors hindered the department's forecasting reliability and more recently resulted in a $151.8 million overstatement of the projected beverage fund balance in the 2009-10 Governor's Budget, Howle wrote.
The agency agreed with the auditor's findings and recommendations.
The BSA audit report makes recommendations in five major areas forecasting of the recycling fund, audit planning and implementation, fraud detection, grant management and strategic planning, Lester Snow, California's secretary for natural resources, wrote in response to a draft of the audit report received prior to public release.
The department has already implemented a number of changes that address these recommendations, Snow wrote.
Those changes include implementing a process to regularly project beverage container fund revenues, redesigning its forecasting methods, updating three-year audit plans and enhancing payment-tracking audits.
The agency, known as CalRecycle, will more closely monitor fraud reports and grant projects.
While the agency is facing criticism for its financial oversight, container capture and recycling rates have increased steadily over the years, to 82 percent for this year, up from 74 percent in 2008.
The improved recycling-rate performance in the California beverage container recycling system is massive, said Susan Collins, executive director of the Container Recycling Institute of Culver City, Calif.
Since 2006, the program has increased recycling from 13 billion containers per year to over 17 billion containers per year, Collins said. That increase, of 4 billion containers, significantly improves the state's recycling rate, and because California is so large, it has an impact on the nation's beverage container recycling rate as well. Those 4 billion containers are nearly 2 percent of the nation's 215 billion containers that are consumed annually.
The full auditor's report is available at www.auditor.ca.gov/ pdfs/reports/2010-101.pdf. The agency's recycling report is available at www.calrecycle.ca.gov/ BevContainer/Notices/2010/Bi annual.pdf.