Changing the Recycling Process Could Bring New Taxes

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

You can see it coming from a mile away. While the recycling program in California teeters on the precipice, expect solutions to fix it will involve more spending, including taxes.

The California Redemption Value, identified on your sales slip as CRV, is a fee placed on bottlers and canners that is passed through eventually to consumers. In turn, the charge is used as an incentive program for consumers to recycle by turning in their empty bottles and cans for money. Currently, the rates are a nickel for a container that holds less than 24 fluid ounces and a dime for containers that hold 24 fluid ounces or more.

Recent news reports on the closing of hundreds of recycling places by one company highlighted flaws in the recycling efforts. Mainly, but not exclusively, the fact that California’s recycling bulk product, which includes non-recyclable items, was sent overseas. However foreign ports are no longer interested in taking the stuff for financial reasons, among others. Chief problems are the cost of plastic bottle recycling doesn’t pay for itself and the sorting process to get the actual recycled goods is costly.

So what is California to do? It certainly wants to continue a recycling program and will have to manage the disposal of the product received at the still operating recycling facilities. On top of that problem is the issue of fewer recycling sites for consumers to participate in the incentive program. No incentive equals less recycled goods and more garbage.

Suggestions to solve the problem include using less plastic in containers and teaching consumers what is valid recyclable material and what is not—items that slow machinery or actually belong in composts or dumps.

Certainly the cost of cleaning up the recycling process, educating the public, and managing instead of selling the bulk unsorted recycling product will end up costing money.

If the CRV continues to exist or is even increased to help pay for the changes to long time recycling procedures and the incentive program is greatly diminished if it even continues to exist at all, then the CRV looks more like a tax. In remodeling the recycling program that fact must be considered by the legislature because a tax would require a two-thirds vote. Some will assert a new or increased fee would be akin to the vehicle tire recycling fee. But the loss or near-loss of the incentive program changes the nature of the original fee in fact as well in the eyes of the public.

It is not out of the question that the tax could pass, given strong support for environmental laws, but the question of a tax becomes part of the debate.

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