Wine, spirit bottles may be added –finally — to CA’s recycle rules

A tangle of glass and plastic beverage bottles at a Santa Monica recycling site. (Photo: Joseph Sohm, via Shutterstock)

After a nice dinner with your loved ones, make sure to keep the wine and spirit containers alongside the recyclable bottles.

That’s because the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1013 on a 39-0 vote and sent it to the Assembly just before lawmakers left for their summer recess.

The bill, by Senate Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Sen. Bill Dodd (D-Napa), would require wine and spirit bottles to be included in California’s decades-old recycling law, known as the Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act, or “Bottle Bill,” which first went into effect in 1987. Atkins said her bill had been nearly “40 years in the making.”

Until now, the definition of “beverage” did not include wine, distilled spirits, or wine from which the alcohol has been removed – a circumstance that prompted fierce debate when the original Bottle Bill was under discussion. The measure promotes returns of containers through the payment of a redemption value.

One top environmental consultant called Atkins’ measure the “sleeper environmental bill of the year.”

So far, it has gained broad support. Capitol staffers believe the measure will be considered on the Assembly floor as early as mid-August, then return to the Senate for concurrence in Assembly amendments.

Newsom is likely to sign it, sources said.

“I am really pleased that so many of our Senate colleagues recognized the importance of this common sense bill that benefits our environment and consumers,” Dodd said when the bill emerged from the Senate.

The Senate Appropriation Committee staff estimates that wine and spirit bottles make up about one-fifth of all beverages sold in glass containers. About 300 million of them wind up in landfills, according to a Senate analysis.

CalRecycle estimates the first year to cost $3.9 million to pay for 28 staff positions, $4.7 million in the second year for 34 positions, and $3.6 million for 24 positions annually after.

According to Atkins’ staff, California generates more than 500 million wine and spirit bottles annually, with less than 30% actually being recycled.

Currently, glass bottles that come from wine and spirits are collected on the street through curbside pickup or thrown away. This results in glass bottles often breaking and then becoming contaminated. When glass becomes contaminated, it can cross-contaminate with other materials such as paper and is overall harder to recycle.

By having wine and spirits bottles included in California’s recycling program,  greenhouse gas emissions  would be reduced annually by almost 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide, according to backers of the bill.

Editor’s Note: Steven Tran is a Capitol Weekly intern from UCLA.


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