by David Goldstein

Earlier this month, the RePlanet chain of recycling centers closed. Following the closure over the past few years of many other recycling centers, parts of Ventura County now have no nearby options for can and bottle refunds. To get back the 5 to 10 cents of California Redemption Value you paid when you purchased beverage containers, you can find your nearest buyback centers by calling 1-800-RECYCLE or visiting www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/BevContainer/RecyclingCenters.

Of course, recycling is also available through curbside collection, but consumers are entitled to refunds of their deposits. According to the website of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), “about 24.5 billion California Refund Value eligible containers were sold in 2018,” and of those, “more than 18.5 billion were recycled.” This left about 6 billion bottles unredeemed, at a value estimated on the website at “more than 100 million dollars.”

CalRecycle is considering strategies to increase options for container buyback, such as potential enforcement of in-store redemption requirements in some cases. In the meantime, unredeemed deposits go to a variety of related uses.

Some of that money is available in the form of competitive grants. School districts, Indian tribes, local governments, universities and nonprofit organizations are among those eligible to submit proposals for funding to “address recycling challenges, aid in increasing beverage container collection, and reduce beverage container litter in the waste stream.” This competitive grant program, however, is limited by legislation to just $1.5 million per year statewide. The most recent winner in Ventura County was the city of Oxnard, which in 2016 won a $249,066 grant to help the Oxnard City Corps increase recycling and litter abatement activities as well as to start recycling programs in multi-family residential buildings. Through a program separate from these grants, Conservation Corps statewide also received approximately $6 million of direct payments from unredeemed deposits in 2018.

Application materials for grant funding will likely be available this winter. At www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/Listservs/Subscribe/121, you can join a listserv to receive emails when notices of funds available are released.

A larger portion of those funds go to incentive payments supporting remaining buyback centers, “supplemental payments” to sorting centers, support for curbside recycling programs and assistance to recycling and litter cleanup programs run by cities and counties.

Of course, there are good environmental reasons to recycle, even if a payment is no longer a convenient option for you. According to the CalRecycle website, recycling 10 pounds of aluminum eliminates 37 pounds of carbon emissions from the air; recycling 10 pounds of clear plastic water or soda bottles cuts 3.3 pounds of carbon emissions; and recycling 10 pounds of glass bottles reduces carbon by nearly a pound.

David Goldstein is an Environmental Analyst with the Ventura County Public Works Agency