The California Redemption Value (CRV) is that nickel or dime you sometimes pay when you buy a beverage in a container. You, or someone else, can recoup it when that container is recycled, thanks to a state law enacted in 1986.
But that system is rampant with fraud and is costing consumers tens of millions of dollars a year, according to a new report from Consumer Watchdog. The companies that process your recycling — and middlemen — profit off the largely antiquated, undigitized system.
“You can recycle the same containers repeatedly,” says Liza Tucker, consumer advocate with Consumer Watchdog. “You can create phantom containers … that simply don’t exist.”
Containers can also be imported from other states, or even Mexico, and then illegally presented as containers purchased in California. Tucker says CalRecycle and the Justice Department jointly work to focus attention on these cross-border importations.
“What they’re missing is under their noses. A whole heck of a lot more is going on.”
One possible solution is making its way through the California legislature. SB 38 would overhaul the system, and bring California in line with eight other states who have producers of bottles and cans take more responsibility. This includes installing reverse vending machines in which consumers can deposit bottles and cans, then receive their CRV back.
“This is California, we’re supposed to be green, we’re supposed to be innovative,” Tucker says. “I just don’t see how this system is ever going to be fixed and run properly. And it’s time to make it run properly.”