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WATCH: Do SoCal Residents Believe in the State's New 100% Aluminum Can Recycling Rate?

(includes interview with rePLANET's Matt Millhiser)

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National News / Environment

Monday, 13 February, 2012 12:38 PM

Californians skeptical about state's 100-percent aluminum can recycling rate


rePLANET operates recycling centers in the parking lots of grocery stores and retail establishments across California.


by Jason Rzucidlo



MORENO VALLEY and PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The state of California has surpassed its goal of 75 percent for the recycling and redemption of aluminum cans by a huge margin. During the period of Jan. - June 2011, a total of 4,021,390,132 aluminum cans were recycled out of 4,023,599,419 cans sold. That equals an all-time high of 100 percent recycled and redeemed. However, most southern California residents doubt the data is correct. Many Californians are skeptical because they have seen cans alongside the freeway and have witnessed others simply throwing them in the garbage.

The CRV or California Refund Value is a fee paid on purchases of certain recyclable beverage containers in California. It is automatically added to the purchase price of beverages with aluminum, plastic, glass, and bimetal containers. The CRV can be reimbursed if the containers are brought to a recycling center. It is five cents per container under 24 ounces and 10 cents per container over 24 ounces (for example, a 2-liter bottle).

"Well, I have a little suspicion to use the word 100 percent," said Lonny Whittington of Palm Springs. The city has separate containers for trash and for recyclables in its downtown district. "But I think it would be a huge amount of volume. One because of the economy, two because it's just correct to take stuff and put it in back instead of all of the waste that there was. When you walk in and see a price of $1.99, and you get up there then it's $2 something. Yeah, a lot of people don't realize it [CRV]. They kind of ignore it. It would be nice if they included it in the price and you wouldn't get the shock pattern when you get up there."

That figure is an eight percent hike from the period of July – Dec. 2010. In addition, it is five percent higher than Jan. – June 2010. Recycling and redemption is up, however sales of aluminum cans during the period of Jan. – June 2011 were down by about 690 million.

"Yes, I think that's kind of high," said Sika Sievers of Palm Springs. "Because I don't think 100 percent of people recycle cans. I personally recycle all of my cans and bottles. We just have an extra recycle bin and the recycling people pick it up. Yeah, I know about the CRV where they pay you for recycling."

The state of California keeps track of its beverage container sales, returns, redemption and recycling rates on it’s official website at

“Yes, our figures indicated a near 100-percent recycling rate for aluminum California Refund Value cans for the Jan-June period,” said Mark Oldfield, acting assistant director of public affairs for CalRecycle, California’s Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery. “The all-materials recycling rate is actually 86 percent, not 88 percent, which reflects the ‘redemption’ rate and includes non-CRV materials. The recycling rate is the one you want – 86 percent.”

The recycling and redemption of all materials, which includes aluminum, glass, plastic and bimetals, is also up for the period of Jan. – June 2011. Those figures are 86 percent and 88 percent, respectively.

"I think that's very high," said Bill Johnson of Desert Hot Springs. "I've seen a couple along the highway. It couldn't be 100 percent then. I constantly recycle all of them, everything--paper, bottles, metals. I didn't know about the CRV at all. So I actually would get money back if I brought them into the store? No. I hope somebody is picking through making money for that either someone that needs to make money or the city."

Over the last few years, the redemption and recycling rates of aluminum cans has been increasing. Ninety-four percent were recycled and redeemed in 2010, 91 percent in 2009, 84 percent in 2008 and 79 percent in 2007. For all materials, the redemption rates were 84 percent in 2010 and 2009, 75 percent in 2008 and 69 percent in 2007.

"I recycle anytime I can," said Eric Rendon of Moreno Valley. "We have a recycling bin in our backyard. Once it gets full, I start separating them and then bring them here. I come here about three times a month, maybe. I think that's pretty high for 100 percent."

New figures for the entire year of 2011 will be released in May, Oldfield explained.

rePLANET is one of the companies responsible for the state’s spike in recycling rate. Their locations are staffed during posted hours, however automated machines are also available.

"It's a place for consumers to come and get their CRV back," said Matt Millhiser, Marketing Director of rePLANET. "Yes, more people are recycling their bottles and cans than a year ago. We've seen higher recycling rates in the state of California, somewhat less rates of people actually buying bottles and cans. Yes, the rate is definitely up year over year. Under the state's beverage container recycling law, the consumer is able to select either way: if you have a lot of materials, it's very easy to weigh those. The state will provide a conversion rate such that we know how many containers there are per pound and use those state rates in order to create the refund. If the consumer has a smaller amount and want them counted, we can do that too."

rePLANET recycling centers are located in the parking lots of grocery stories and retail establishments in California. To find the location near you, visit their website at

"With these recycling machines, you can put in as many as you like and they effectively pay you by count," Millhiser added. "I don't think it's really true that a consumer would get more back by weight. That's a subject of a lot of debate. Coupons are something that we do from time to time. It depends on the market rates for aluminum and other competitive activities. You can search for coupons on and click on 'coupons' under the location finder. It changes week by week. We're very lucky that California did hit 100 percent with recycling rates for aluminum cans. We're still not quite there yet for glass and plastic. That's our goal. We have a new charity fundraiser program that schools and other non-profits can raise funds with."

With the 100 percent recycling and redemption rate for aluminum cans, the state agency had to come up with a new initiative to promote. CalRecycle’s current goal is to increase the recycling and redemption rate of glass, plastics and bimetals.

"I don't think that's accurate," said Charlie London of Moreno Valley. "I don't think there's that many contentious people in the world right now. I think it's probably more like 60 percent or maybe 40 percent letting them do the work for them. It's just like the city with Waste Management has their recycling bins. I think a lot of people probably mix a lot of stuff in there that doesn't really need to be and vice versa."

Bottle deposit programs create 11 to 38 times more jobs than curbside recycling, according to a recent article in Waste & Recycling News.

For more information about rePLANET or to find the nearest location, visit their website at

Related Story: EARTH TALK: Questions and Answers About Our Environment



How can the recycling rate be 100 percent when some people simply throw their bottles and cans in the trash?



Two people are seen recycling and redeeming their cans and bottles



Charlie London of Moreno Valley, Calif. brought several bags of cans to recycle.



This rePLANET recycling center is located in the parking lot of Super Target in Moreno Valley, Calif.



More people arriving to recycle their cans and bottles.




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Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.