Quarter of a Billion in Unredeemed California CRV?

March 14, 2008


This is the story of a bottle and a nickel. Actually a lot of bottles and a lot of nickels. Billions of bottles and billions of nickels. All of which are in California. But the full story takes too much time so let’s get back to the bottle and the nickel.

A glass bottle is made out of limestone, soda ash and sand. It can also be made with cullet or crushed glass. Which is to say old glass is one of the ingredients in new glass.

But to start let’s assume there is a container manufacturer that makes a beer bottle. This manufacturer then sells the empty beer bottle to a beverage manufacturer. The beverage manufacturer fills the empty bottle with beer, sends the filled bottle to a distributor and also pays a processing fee to the California Department of Conservation or DOC. The distributor then sells the filled beer bottle to the retailer. In some cases the distributor will also receive a deposit from previously returned bottles from the retailer which they will in turn give to the DOC. The retailer is the one that sells you the full beer bottle. When you buy the beer you will pay 5 cents a bottle. This five cents is the California Redemption Value or CRV and it was put in place with the stated goals of encouraging recycling and reducing litter. In some cases the retailer will take this nickel or CRV and give it to the distributor, who will then give it to the DOC. In other cases the retailer may have an on-site recycling center in which case you can get you nickel back as soon as the bottle is empty. Otherwise you can take your empty beer bottle to a not-for-profit recycling center and effectively give them a nickel by giving them the bottle without getting back your nickel. Your CRV is then a donation. You can also take your empty bottle to a private recycling center and they will pay your CRV. Finally you can leave your empty beer bottle in the curbside recycling. In this case the curbside recycling center will take the bottle and sell it to a processor who will make cullet out of the bottle. The processor will also buy empty bottles from private, for-profit and on-site recycling centers. The processor also gets money out the DOC. Some of the empty bottles can also get made into fiber glass. Pretty straightforward to this point.



4 Responses to “Quarter of a Billion in Unredeemed California CRV?”

  1. boldlentil Says:

    Kevin – post interrupted. This will be expanded over the coming couple of days.

  2. Kevin Says:


  3. John Smith Says:

    so much for finishing the article

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