Thank you for helping to investigate California’s collapsing recycling system for bottles and cans!
A successful deposit return system is built on a network of convenient return options. Many of the statewide retailers are required by law to redeem bottles and cans, but anecdotal evidence suggests this is not happening. Can you help us get to the bottom of this in your neighborhood?
- CalRecycle provides a map of local retailers where you can redeem empty bottles and cans for your cash deposit. Use your zip code to find return locations near you.
- From that list of return locations:
- Select 1-3 local retailers that would offer a convenient return location for you.
- Take a few empty beverage containers – plastic bottles, aluminum cans or glass bottles that say “CRV” somewhere on the packaging. (Crushed containers are not accepted.)
- Attempt to return them at the location(s) identified.
- Not sure what to say? Tell the cashier that you want to redeem the deposit on your beverage containers, and that the store was provided as a return option on the CalRecycle website.
- *Bonus*: If you can, take a photo of the store you attempted to make your returns to or even make a short video of your attempted return.
- Share your results in this survey when you’re done.
- If there were no return locations available:
- This is a testament to the failure of the system to provide a ‘return to retail’ option in your neighborhood. This data is critical for our decision-makers to be aware of. Look up your nearest recycling center that accepts bottles and cans.
- Find out how far away it is (in miles). You can use Google Maps for this.
- Fill in this quick survey, to help us advocate for needed improvements.
Thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground — you’re helping us to capture data about the state of California’s deposit return system. Stay tuned for further campaign updates!
Want to reach out with feedback? Contact Alex Choy, Digital Campaign Organizer, at alex [at] storyofstuff [dot] org.
Want Some Background Info? Wondering How and Why this Recycling Mission Matters?
Let’s start here: Did you know that you can get cash back for recycling your bottles and cans?
In California we pay 5¢ or 10¢ for the plastic, aluminum, or glass container your drink comes in – a refundable deposit called the “California Redemption Value”. We pay upfront, and then have the right to redeem the deposit on those containers.
It’s the cornerstone of California’s ‘bottle bill’, designed to incentivize high recycling rates and enable those containers to be recycled bottle to bottle rather than ending up in a dump, an incinerator, or the environment.
While the concept is sound, the system is in crisis: the bottom line is that many retailers are not accepting returns for the bottles and cans they sell, despite their legal obligation to do so, leaving Californians lacking convenient redemption options.
We are supposed to be able to easily return bottles and cans for a cash deposit – a powerful tool in the fight against the polluting plastic waste and carbon emissions harming our environment and frontline communities. But it’s so difficult to redeem CRV that the state is sitting on over half a billion dollars in unredeemed deposits!
To truly function as it needs to, it should be as easy to return a bottle or can as it is to buy one. That’s been a harder goal to achieve than it should have since an underperforming system suits the financial interests of the beverage industry, large retailers and waste haulers across the state.
So, how are we going to tackle this? The data that you’re helping collect with this Recycling Mission enables us to pinpoint where the system is breaking down. Then, we can urge elected leaders for much needed improvements and make it as easy to return a bottle or can as it is to buy one. Together, we can get this bottle bill back on track!