Empty aluminum beverage cans arranged in rows.

CalRecycle plans to release final redemption data for the first six months of 2020 in the coming weeks. | anmbph/Shutterstock

This story has been updated with new redemption figures from California’s recycling agency.

Advocacy organization Consumer Watchdog recently noted the COVID-19 pandemic has slashed California’s beverage container recycling rate. But the state’s recycling agency called that analysis “inaccurate.”

Consumer Watchdog on Oct. 26 issued a release describing a significant drop in redemptions through Californnia’s beverage container recycling program, noting that in the first half of 2020, “the redemption rate for consumers plunged to 60.2% from 66% in the face of the pandemic and a deepening economic crisis for redemption centers.”

The data seems to be based on the monthly volume reports for beverage container sales and returns, published by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

A large decline in California’s redemption rate would be troubling because the state’s program provides significant tonnages of quality material to companies that recycle PET, aluminum or glass.

Several processors have described deposit volume impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. And California’s deposit redemption center struggles have been worsening for years.

However, CalRecycle says the figures in the Consumer Watchdog release do not accurately reflect the situation.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has had an understandable impact on recycling centers, recycling rates have been consistently on the rise since June,” CalRecycle spokesman Lance Klug told Resource Recycling. “The numbers cited were inaccurate.”

He said the beverage container recycling program rate was 75% before the pandemic began and that more recent numbers are not yet finalized.

CalRecycle plans to release final redemption data for the first six months of 2020 in the coming weeks, Klug said.

Update: CalRecycle on Nov. 6 posted figures covering the first half of 2020, reporting a 71% recycling rate for beverage containers that are part of the state’s redemption program. 

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