Senator Wiener's Statement on Governor Brown's Signing of Bill to Fix California’s Broken Recycling Laws

October 10, 2017

Sacramento –  Today, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 458, a bill by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) to fix state recycling laws that are negatively impacting small grocery stores across California. SB 458 is an urgency measure, which means it goes into effect immediately.

Senator Wiener issued the following statement:

“SB 458 will allow our cities to be more flexible and innovative in meeting our goal of reducing waste in California. By allowing local communities to pilot mobile recycling programs - thus expanding recycling redemption access and relieving small groceries from an onerous obligation - we will further our recycling goals while helping small businesses."

SB 458 directs 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 programs will qualify as full recycling centers under California law, thus relieving surrounding small grocery stores of the onerous obligation of having to accept recycling for redemption.

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, as the number of recycling centers has fallen from 35 in 1990 to just seven today. While larger supermarket chains can simply pay the fine, smaller grocery stores cannot and thus are forced to accept recycling redemption, which can be highly disruptive to running a small store.

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.

To address this problem, San Francisco’s Department of the Environment attempted to create a mobile recycling program. However, such a program is not legal under state law, and Senator Wiener therefore introduced SB 458 to allow for a mobile recycling pilot program. The bill was initially a pilot program just for San Francisco, but given the statewide nature of the problem, Senator Wiener amended the bill to authorize five pilot programs throughout the state.