Senator Wiener’s Bill to Fix Broken Recycling Laws Passes Senate Environmental Quality Committee

SB 458 authorizes creation of five mobile recycling pilot programs throughout the state, which will allow cities like San Francisco to have more flexible recycling programs that relieve small businesses of requirement to accept recycling for redemption
June 21, 2017

Sacramento –  Today the Senate Environmental Quality Committee passed a bill by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to fix state recycling laws that are negatively impacting small businesses across California. SB 458 authorizes CalRecycle to create five mobile recycling pilot programs throughout the state, which will allow cities like San Francisco to pursue a mobile recycling redemption program. Under SB 458, these mobile recycling centers will qualify as full recycling centers under California law, which will relieve surrounding small businesses of the onerous obligation of having to accept recycling for redemption.

 

SB 458 was passed by a vote of 6-0, and will now move to the Senate Appropriations Committee. SB 458 is an urgency measure, which means it requires a 2/3 vote by the legislature and will go into effect immediately upon passage.

“Mobile recycling is a smart, flexible way for California to continue to be a national leader in recycling and waste reduction efforts, while relieving the burden on small businesses caused by the current law,” said Senator Wiener. “Cities like San Francisco have changed in the decades since the Bottle Bill was passed, and what worked thirty years ago is no longer working for our cities and our local businesses who can’t meet the one-size-fits-all obligations of state law. SB 458 will help communities and businesses across California meet the requirements of the Bottle Bill.”

Under the 1986 California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (also known as the Bottle Bill), any beverage dealer, including supermarkets and corner stores, not within one half-mile of a recycling center must redeem empty bottles and cans in-store or pay a $100-per-day in-lieu fee (nearly $40,000 a year). In San Francisco, these half-mile “convenience zones” surrounding recycling centers have all but disappeared, where the number of recycling centers has fallen from 35 in 1990 to just seven today.

San Francisco has the lowest recycling zone coverage (7%) of any city in the state. This leaves 579 beverage dealers in San Francisco outside of any “convenience zone” established under the bottle bill, and therefore subject to the requirement to either redeem containers or pay a daily fine. The large majority of these 579 stores are smaller stores. Large supermarkets simply pay the fee and thus are relieved of their obligation to redeem recyclables. Small grocery stores, which are unable to pay this fee, are thus subjected to the crushing burden of having to accept any and all recyclables members of the public bring to them

To address this problem, San Francisco’s Department of the Environment has attempted to create a mobile recycling program. However, such a program does not fulfill the recycling obligations of local businesses under current state law. Senator Wiener introduced SB 458 initially as a pilot program for San Francisco to allow for a mobile recycling program to satisfy these obligations. With amendments taken in committee today, SB 458 has now been expanded to allow CalRecycle to authorize five pilot programs throughout the state.

Specifically, SB 458 will create a pilot program where up to five local jurisdictions can apply for alternative programs to satisfy the “convenience zone” requirement of the Bottle Bill.  These pilot programs will allow cities to create a mobile recycling program that, if it meets certain criteria, will relieve businesses of the collection obligations and financial penalties put on them for existing outside of a convenience zone. The mobile recycling programs can include unmanned reverse vending machines or temporary locations that are open one or two days per week for at least six hours per day at each location.

Contact: Jeff Cretan, jeff.cretan@sen.ca.gov