SACRAMENTO — The Senate, hoping to "jump-start" the state's sluggish beverage container recycling program, voted Thursday to more than double the redemption rate on beer, soft drink and other drink containers.
The legislation by Sen. Gary K. Hart (D-Santa Barbara) would increase effective Jan. 1 the current rate of 1 cent per recyclable container to 5 cents for two containers and boost to a full nickel the rate on a 24-ounce plastic container.
Hart said aluminum cans are recycled at a rate of 57%, followed by the anemic showing of glass at less than 40% and plastic at only 5%.
Under the bill, starting in January, 1993, a nickel would be paid for any beverage can or bottle of a type that fails to reach a 65% recycling rate.
A 31-2 vote sent the bill to the Assembly, where Hart said he "would be surprised if it ran into any major problems." Similar efforts to increase refunds for recyclable containers have failed during the nearly two years the program has been in operation in California.
Environmentalist critics have charged that the disappointing low recycling rate of beverage containers in California is a result of paying a redemption rate of only a penny per plastic, glass or aluminum beverage can or bottle.
They maintain that a larger sum would make it more worthwhile for Californians to participate. Many other states offer 5 cents per container and have dramatically higher recycling rates.
Hart told the Senate that the California program "doesn't work very well because of the low reimbursement rates" and needs a financially rewarding "jump-start."
Current law, enacted as a compromise in 1987 after years of battling between environmental organizations and beer and soft drink manufactures, will automatically boost the penny-per-container rate to 2 cents on Jan. 1 if a 65% recycling goal is not met and to 3 cents in 1993 if the goal still is not reached.
An effort by state Sen. William Campbell (R-Hacienda Heights) to exempt 24-ounce plastic containers from the refund increase was defeated.