California Refund Value and Local Beverage Container Recycling
The California Refund Value, or CRV, is a state regulatory fee created to promote the recycling of aluminum, plastic, glass, and bimetal beverage containers. At the time of sale, consumers are charged $.05 cents for containers less than 24 ounces and $.10 cents for containers greater than 24 ounces.
Consumers can get this money back by recycling their beverage containers at recycling centers. CRV is a result of the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, which is administered by the State Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (more popularly known as CalRecycle).
Since this state program began in 1987, more than 300 billion beverage containers have been successfully recycled. CRV funds that are not reclaimed by consumers recycling their beverage containers are used to fund a variety of conservation, recycling, and environmental grants and programs, fund additional litter cleanup activities, and administrate the program itself.
However, the CRV program has suffered some setbacks recently. In the last 5 years, approximately 40% of recycling centers in the state closed, and on August 5, 2019, all of the remaining RePlanet recycling centers closed. In 2013, the recycling rate of beverage containers in California was 85%; in 2018, 76%. As recycling centers shut down, many consumers must travel farther, and the remaining centers come under pressure from additional consumers, which increases the average wait time. Additionally, there have even been cases of cross-state abuse of the CRV program. Beverage containers from other states are being illegally redeemed in California to receive the refund value without paying the original fee. Just last year, three people were arrested in a case of cross-state recycling fraud estimated at $16.1 million dollars.
The shutdown of recycling centers can largely be explained by market forces. The value of the recycling materials has decreased (generally the more expensive oil is, the more valuable recyclable materials are). Meanwhile, the cost of doing business has increased over time. Historically, recycling centers have been reliant on government subsidies to stay in business, but these have not increased to adequately meet the changes in the market.
This year, our local Senator, Henry Stern, proposed state legislation (SB-724) to combat the CRV program’s economic challenges by increasing handling fees paid to certified recycling centers.
If you would like to report a recycling center closure or file a complaint regarding a certified recycling center, please email CalRecycle at email@example.com or call 1-800-RECYCLE.
For a full list of eligible CRV products please visit: https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/bevcontainer
For additional information please visit: https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/bevcontainer/programinfo/faq
 NOURAN SALAHIEH, "3 Arrested in Alleged $16.1 Million Recycling Fraud Between California and Arizona," 2018, https://ktla.com/2018/12/03/3-arrested-in-alleged-16-1-million-recycling-fraud-bust-between-california-and-arizona/ (accessed 7/2/19).
ANNIE SCIACCA AND RACHEL SPACEK, "Californians are recycling bottles less and less. Here's what's going on," 2017, https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-recycling-rates-down-20170704-story.html (accessed June 25, 2019).
 "SB-724 The California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act," 2019, https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB724 (accessed June 25, 2019).