New California Bill Will Give Customers a Cash Incentive for Recycling Wine Bottles

For more than 30 years, Californians have been getting cash back (five to 10 cents) for recycling aluminum cans and plastic water bottles, along with other containers that are eligible for the California Redemption Value (CRV). The program charges a CRV fee when consumers purchase an eligible beverage and gives them a refund when they bring those items to a recycling center.

Wine bottles have always been off that list – until now.

At the end of September, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 1013 which will add wine and distilled spirits bottles to the longtime CRV program. The bill was written by President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, and Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa.

“California’s bottle bill recycling program has been incomplete and needed expanding for 40 years. With SB 1013, not only are we putting in place the tools to tackle recycling a half billion glass bottles a year, but we are also creating the opportunity to keep recycled glass and manufacturing jobs here in California instead of sending it overseas. The Legislature passed SB 1013 with strong bipartisan votes, as well as support from environmentalists and industry. The law provides new opportunities to improve the overall bottle recycling process and help us get more bottles out of the waste stream. This year’s budget afforded us the opportunity to make specific grants to advance those opportunities, and we will conduct our appropriate legislative oversight to make sure that those funds support the goals of the legislation,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego).

CampestreMAG reached out to several local wineries about the recent passage of the bill. Many hadn’t heard about the bill until our call. 

Laurie Wagner, owner and winemaker of Turtle Rock Ridge Vineyard Winery in Ramona, was one of those who learned about the bill from us. Wagner shared that she thinks the bill will add to the cost of production which will then be passed on to customers. “I know we responsibly recycle our empty wine bottles through our local recycling program. I don’t really think more incentives are necessary for the general public and members of the winemaking community to renew, reuse, and recycle containers,” Wagner added. 

“I kind of have mixed thoughts about whether it’s a good thing or not. I guess in a world where everything’s perfect if they came out and got all the bottles and put them in a giant pot and they were able to melt them and turn them into new glass or something like that – that would be great,” said Roberto Espinosa, owner and winemaker at Espinosa Vineyards in Escondido.

Espinosa was concerned about having to do more paperwork for his business and wasn’t sure if the bill would actually encourage people to recycle their wine bottles. “People that are spending 20-30 bucks on a bottle of wine, they might not care about the 10 or 20 cents that they’re spending trying to get it back.”

On the other hand, Sue Robinson from Correcaminos Vineyard and Winery in Ramona, was happy to see the bill become official and had already heard about the bill before our call. 

“I think it’s great. I feel really guilty. I put our wine bottles in the blue recycle bins but you always wonder where they go, really, so the recycling I think is going to be really nice to do. They’re going to get used, reused and that’s what we want to see. I’m pleased with that,” said Robinson. 

Robinson has owned her vineyard’s property since 2009 which produces about 1,000 wine bottles a year. Hundreds of bottles that she thinks will now have a better chance of getting recycled. “I’m pleased. I hate to see them just go to the dump and get wasted and take up space. I would much rather see them go into the recycling and people are encouraged to recycle them and get them back out of there, which would be great,” Robinson said. 

A CalRecycle representative shared that “since the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act of 1986 set a financial value on beverage containers to encourage recycling and reduce litter, Californians have recycled more than 454 billion bottles and cans through this program. And, in 2021, Cal Recycle says that Californians recycled 18.5 billion (68 percent) CRV beverage containers.” 

Now that glass bottles are being added to the CRV program, what could be the impact? Well, according to the EPA and the Glass Packaging Institute, the recycling rate for glass in 2018 was just 31.3%. In that same year, the EPA says landfills received around 7.6 million tons of (municipal solid waste) glass. The hope would be to get more of this glass recycled and less of it into landfills. 

Here are some of the takeaways from the bill to break down some of the upcoming changes: 

  • “The act requires a distributor to pay a redemption payment for every beverage container sold or offered for sale in the state of $0.05 for a beverage container with a capacity of less than 24 fluid ounces and $0.10 for a beverage container with a capacity of 24 fluid ounces or more to the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, and requires the department to deposit those amounts in the California Beverage Container Recycling Fund.”
  • That fund will then pay the CRV refunds and pay for administrative fees to people “who purchase empty beverage containers from recycling centers and process the containers in a prescribed manner.” It can also be used for things like litter cleanup and prevention and education. 
  • Beverage manufacturers will have to pay a processing fee, that is calculated by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, for “each beverage container sold or transferred to a distributor or dealer.” Manufacturers will also have to report information to the department.  
  • The bill will also now require wine direct shipper permit holders to register with the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery as a beverage manufacturer and distributor before making any wine shipments to California. This would also include annually renewing their permit and paying an annual fee. 
  • Even wine in a box or bladder will have a refund of 25 cents if returned to a recycling center, starting January 1, 2024.
  • A Recycled Glass Processing Incentive Grant Program would be created “to provide grants to applicants who demonstrate the ability to expand glass cullet processing in the state, as prescribed.”
  • To increase the recycling of empty bottles, a grant program will be created called the Increased Recycling of Empty Glass Beverage Containers Grant Program which will allow for the purchasing of bins to collect the “empty glass beverage containers at restaurants and other on-sale retail licensed establishments” and also, according to the bill, transport the glass containers to a glass processing facility.
  • Wine manufacturers will need to label their bottles with the message “CA Redemption Value,” “California Redemption Value,” “CA Cash Refund,” “California Cash Refund,” or “CA CRV.”
  • Winemakers could see audits or investigations by the department to make sure they are complying with the new law and could face “enforcement action,” if they aren’t.  

The bill will go into effect on January 1, 2024 by adding wine bottles (and distilled spirits bottles) to the CRV program. And, according to Wine Institute, products will need to be labeled with a CRV by July 1, 2025.

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