Plastic bottles collected in a plastic bag for recycling.

Amended bill text would require beverage retailers to accept containers or join a dealer cooperative.  | Glenn Highcove/Shuttestock

Last-minute amendments to California bottle bill expansion legislation would remove the daily fee opt-out for retailers and instead require them to either accept containers or join a dealer cooperative to coordinate collection, along with several other changes.

Senate Bill 1013 was previously focused on adding wine and distilled spirits to the state’s container redemption program, which currently includes beer, wine coolers, soda, water, coffee and tea beverages, fruit juices and more. The Senate on May 25 voted 39-0 to approve the bill, which then went to the state Assembly.

On August 25, it was amended from five pages to over 50, increasing the cost, removing the $100 daily fee option and creating a number of grant programs and market development payments. For plastic beverage containers, the bill would cap market development payments at $150 per ton, until July 1, 2025 when it becomes inoperative.

The amended bill would also change the size of the convenience zone to within a one-mile radius of a supermarket, up from half a mile, and in rural areas the size would be a 5-mile radius, up from three miles.

A convenience zone is the area around a beverage retailer. If a certified recycling center exists within a convenience zone, beverage retailers in the zone are not required to accept containers.  If there is not a certified recycling center, beverage retailers either have to redeem beverage containers or pay a $100 per day fee – but if the bill passes, as of Jan. 1, 2025, retailers would either have to accept containers or join a dealer cooperative.

The dealer cooperative, outlined in the amended version, is similar to a producer responsibility organization. Retailers would be required to submit a dealer cooperative redemption plan to collectively provide redemption in that convenience zone.

Once part of the dealer cooperative, retailers could receive reimbursements from the state for handling fees, processing payments and administrative fees. Under current law, only redemption centers are eligible for that reimbursement.

It also sets quality incentive payments for empty plastic beverage containers collected by curbside recycling programs, drop-off or collection programs at up to $180 per ton.

SB 1013 would also decrease the percentage of total retailers that can be granted a state exemption. Currently, up to 35% of state retailers can be granted an exemption and neither accept containers nor pay the daily fee. The amended bill lowers that threshold to 15%. Requirements for exemption are not changed under the proposed bill.

There are also minimum PCR requirements for plastic beverage containers added to the bill that follow previous legislation signed in 2020. The amended text requires 15% PCR through 2024, rising to 25% between Jan. 1, 2025 and Dec. 31, 2029 and no less than 50% after Jan. 1, 2030.

At an Aug. 29 Assembly Natural Resources Committee hearing, Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, said he supported the bill’s market development incentives and its spending to improve infrastructure.

Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute (CRI), spoke as a “betweener” after withdrawing CRI’s full support of the bill over the amendments.

She said she is “very much in support of the environmental provisions in this bill,” but with the nearly $900 million in new spending proposed in SB 1013, it will “break the bank.”

In a July 25 cost analysis on the original bill, CRI found it would cost between $27 million and $47 million annually for the expansion, depending on revenue.

Now, CRI is estimating the amended bill will cost $887 million over a 6-year period, with all the additional payments and programs in it. The Beverage Container Recycling Program fund balance is currently around $635 million.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit group based in California that has been vocal about reforming the state’s deposit system, said the amended bill is “loaded with pork for major corporations that don’t need it.”

Along with glass-specific grants and payouts, the amended bill allocates $15 million annually to curbside programs and neighborhood dropoff programs; $10.5 million annually in payments of $5,000 to cities and $10,000 to counties for beverage container recycling and litter cleanup activities; $1.5 million annually in grants for beverage container recycling and litter reduction programs; $10 million dollars to the community conservation corps for beverage container litter reduction programs and recycling programs; and up to $5 million annually for a statewide public education and information campaign.

There’s a short window for recycling pilot projects in the amended bill. Until June 30, 2025, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery can approve up to 10 recycling pilot projects that improve redemption opportunities in unserved convenience zones and spend up to $5 million over that time frame.

“It is the intent of the Legislature to create new, convenient recycling opportunities to improve consumer redemption of eligible beverage containers and increase recycling rates in jurisdictions served by pilot projects and to provide recycling opportunities to improve consumer redemption of eligible containers in pilot project areas, including in rural areas,” the bill text states.

Finally, the amended bill adds an extra year to the date of implementation. The original bill set the expansion to go live as of Jan. 1, 2023. The amended bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2024.

The last day of the state’s legislative session is Aug. 31. In California, amendments to bills need to be in print three days prior to voting, meaning no further amendments can be made to SB 1013 this session.

A version of this story appeared in Resource Recycling on August 30.

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