California Proposition 11, Beverage Container Reuse and Recycling Act (1982)

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California Proposition 11 was on the November 2, 1982 statewide general election ballot in California as an initiated state statute, where it was defeated.

Proposition 11, the Beverage Container Reuse and Recycling Act, would have required "every empty beer and other malt beverage, mineral water, soda water, and similar carbonated soft drink container to be redeemable for cash, as a means of encouraging consumers to return empty cans and bottles rather than discard them as litter or municipal waste."

Specifically, Proposition 11 would have:

  • Required that beginning on March 1, 1984, every such beverage container sold or offered for sale in California would have had a refund value (when returned empty) of at least 5 cents.
  • Required that when a consumer returned an empty container to a retailer selling that same kind, size, and brand of beverage, that retailer must pay the consumer the refund.
  • Retailers or redemption centers that returned empty containers to a wholesaler or bottler of the same kind, size, and brand must be paid the refund, plus a handling fee equal to 20% of the refund.

Election results

Proposition 11
Defeatedd No4,256,27455.9%
Yes 3,359,281 44.1%

Statutory changes

If Proposition 11 had been approved, it would have amended Division 12.1 (commencing with Section 14500) of California's Public Resources Code, relating to beverage containers.

Ballot summary

Proposition 11's official ballot summary said:

"Requires that beverage containers sold, or offered for sale, on or after March 1, 1984, have a refund value, established by the distributor, of not less than 5 cents. Requires refund value be indicated on container. Requires that dealers and distributors pay the refund value on return of empty container. Provides for establishment of redemption centers. Provides for handling fees for dealers and redemption centers. Prohibits manufacturer from requiring a deposit from a distributor on a nonrefillable container. Contains definitions, specified exceptions, conditions, and other matters. Provides violation of statute is an infraction punishable by fine. Summary of Legislative Analyst's estimate of net state and local government fiscal impact: Net fiscal effect on state and local governments cannot be determined. Could result in reduced litter cleanup costs, reduced solid waste disposal costs, and an unknown increase or decrease in tax revenue collections. Variables involved are discussed in more depth in Analyst's estimate."

Fiscal impact

The fiscal estimate provided by the California Legislative Analyst's Office said:

"This measure would have a fiscal effect on both the state and local governments. The net impact of the measure's fiscal effect, however, cannot be determined.
Based on the experience of states with deposit laws, it appears that this measure, if approved by the voters, would result in a significant increase in the percentage of empty beverage containers recycled or refilled and, therefore, a significant decrease in the percentage of empty beverage containers that are discarded.
The shift in the disposition of empty beverage containers would be accompanied by changes in the behavior of both businesses and individuals, which could affect (1) the amount of litter and solid waste in California, (2) beverage prices, (3) beverage sales, (4) corporate profits, (5) employment, and (6) the average wage levels of workers involved in the production and sale of beer and carbonated soft drinks. As a result, the measure could affect government costs and revenues in numerous ways. These include:
1. Reduced Litter Cleanup Costs. Deposit laws in other states have caused reductions of approximately 80 percent in the amount of beverage container litter. Estimates of the resulting change in total litter range from almost no change to reductions in excess of 30 percent. If this measure is approved, it is likely that governmental agencies would experience some savings in litter cleanup costs.
2. Reduced Solid Waste Disposal Costs. Deposit laws in other states also have resulted in an estimated 3- to 4-percent reduction in the amount of municipal solid waste that must be disposed of. Because solid waste disposal services in California are provided by government agencies, as well as by private firms, a reduction in the amount of waste to be disposed of would reduce costs to these agencies. In the short run, a reduction in the volume of waste would result in only moderate savings for government agencies that provide solid waste disposal services, because local solid waste removal systems are sized to handle the current volume of waste and a large portion of the costs of these systems is fixed. In the long term, these agencies could experience significant savings as a result of the reduction in solid wastes requiring disposal.
3. An Increase or Decrease in Tax Revenue Collections. This initiative could change the amount of tax revenues which state and local governments collect, although the overall magnitude of this change -- and even its direction (up or down) -- is unknown. A change in revenues can be anticipated because the initiative could affect such factors as corporate profits, beverage sales, and beverage-related employment and wage levels. This, in turn, could have an impact on revenue collections from the sales and use tax, the bank and corporation tax, the personal income tax, and the excise tax on beer. Some of these revenue effects are likely to be positive; others are likely to be negative. For example:
  • Sales and use tax revenues could be reduced if the volume of beverages sold declines. These revenues could also be increased, however, to the extent that beverage prices rise. The effect of the measure on sales and use tax revenues would also depend on whether the deposit paid by consumers on nonrefillable bottles and cans is itself subject to tax. The effect of the measure on sales and use tax revenue would further depend on the way in which any increase or decrease in spending by consumers on beverages is offset by changes in their spending on other taxable and nontaxable commodities.
  • Excise tax revenues from the sale of beer would decline if the volume of beer sales declines as a result of the measure.
  • Bank and corporation profits tax revenues could decline if the costs incurred by bottlers and retailers increase as a result of the measure and the increase is not offset by higher prices charged to consumers.
  • Personal income tax collections could decline to the extent that proprietors' incomes fall, or more lower-wage and fewer higher-wage workers are employed in the manufacturing, distribution, and retailing of beverages. Personal income tax revenues could also increase, however, if total beverage-related employment and wages paid rise significantly due to an increase in the demand for retail and beverage transportation workers.
Experience with mandatory deposit laws in other states does not yield conclusive evidence regarding the ongoing impact of these laws on those key economic variables that affect government revenues. Therefore, it is not possible to predict with any reliability what the net effect of this measure would be on state and local government revenues in California.

Path to the ballot

As an initiated state statute, Proposition 11 earned its spot on the ballot through the collection of signatures on petitions.

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