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June 29, 2007


Deposit for most will go up a penny starting Sunday
By Michael Gardner

SACRAMENTO – California penny pinchers may want to stock up on their favorite beverage now.

That's because starting Sunday the deposit for most cans and bottles will ring up at an extra penny, to 5 cents.

The increase is one of three significant recycling programs that take effect July 1.

That same day, California also will become the second state to impose mandatory recycling of plastic bags, and the state will begin collecting a disposal fee of up to $10 on one of travelers' best friends during long road trips: the portable DVD player.

California's 21-year-old redemption program is one of the nation's largest covering containers from the checkout line to the collection bin.

The first deposit was just a penny, but it has since gradually increased to a nickel, beginning Sunday.

Consumers won't receive an additional penny when they return the containers – because they've already been getting it. As part of a complex compromise in the recycling measure signed into law last year, consumers began receiving a nickel refund on their returned containers in January – six months before the deposit would be raised to that amount.

Wayne Williams, who oversees San Diego County's recycling program, called this year's changes in the redemption program “a great move” that will spur even more returns.

“People are into this. People are realizing waste is not the way to go,” Williams said. “They realize there are hidden costs to society – landfill and litter problems – and people are willing to pay a little more and rest assured that they are being better citizens.”

The extra penny will be levied at the cash register on bottles and cans of up to 24 ounces. The state also will start collecting its 2 cents' worth on containers of more than 24 ounces. The deposit on those bottles and cans will go up to a dime, from 8 cents. The redemption rate for the jumbo containers was raised to 10 cents Jan. 1.

The increases are expected to bring in $70 million more for recycling programs during the next six months.

In 2005, Californians recycled about 12.4 billion beverage containers out of the 20.5 billion sold, according to the California Department of Conservation.

And while a growing number of stores already are recycling plastic shopping bags, billions more bags may soon be transformed into home decking or other products – including new plastic bags.

Starting Sunday, large grocers and retailers will have to provide a place to drop off plastic bags and offer for sale more environmentally friendly substitutes, such as cloth totes.

“This ends the paper or plastic debate,” said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Sherman Oaks, who carried the legislation.

Californians took home 19 billion plastic grocery bags last year, Levine said. Despite reuse as garbage or lunch bags, the plastic sacks amount to 147,038 tons of waste dumped in landfills or blown across the landscape and beaches, he said.

While many grocers and large retailers have voluntarily recycled plastic bags, it will now be mandatory for stores with at least 10,000 square feet.

Kevin Herglotz, a spokesman for Vons and Safeway, said the grocery chain has drop-off locations in place and supports the new law.

“The one thing we've stepped up is selling reuseable bags,” he said. The company charges customers 99 cents for the tote.

However, Herglotz said, the state needs to go further by encouraging curbside pickup programs for plastic bags. “Just think of the difference it would make when everyone is able to recycle plastic in their homes,” he said.

Container, cardboard and newspaper return rates soared when residents could simply toss the material into a convenient can or bin rather than lugging it to the recycling center, Herglotz said.

Levine agrees but said the plastic recycling industry is still too new to justify the cost and a state law.

“We couldn't wait until they're ready,” he said, explaining why this initial step is being taken.

The measure will expire in six years; by then demand should warrant curbside programs, Levine said.

Trex Co., a giant Virginia-based home decking and fencing concern that uses recycled plastic in many of its products, also has supported the measure and has provided mini-balers in the Los Angeles area to help retailers comply. Rhode Island is the only other state to require convenient drop-offs.

The state law apparently didn't go far enough for San Francisco, which recently enacted a ban on large grocery stores and pharmacies from using plastic bags that takes effect in the coming months.

The third recycling program that starts Sunday targets hundreds of stores that sell electronics.

The state Board of Equalization, a tax board, announced recently that the waste fee charged on most computers and televisions will be extended to DVD players with screens measuring four inches or less diagonally. Retailers will collect $6 to $10, depending on the size of the screen, on every sale.


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