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Dear Matt:

I have no problem with the CRV we Californians pay for beverage containers as it is really nothing more than a deposit for our glass, cans, and plastic containers. My grocery clerk collects the CRV deposit, and when I recycle at any given site, I get my money back through a company (assumedly) completely disconnected with my grocery store and/or my state government. So how is this money moving through the system, and more importantly, what about the containers that are not recycled, where is that CRV money?

-- JM, La Costa

Show me a business completely disconnected from state government, and I'll show you Crooks R Us. Maybe you can sell pressure cookers and velvet paintings out of the trunk of your car until the taxman catches up with you, but a gypsy-style recycler is a man with a limited future.

As the legislation has been drawn up, grocery stores collect the money from us every time we buy a recyclable container. They send our nickels to the state, at which point the grocers are out of the picture. The Resources Agency of the California Department of Conservation takes all our nickels from the grocers and puts them into a big pile. We go to an official, state-licensed recycler, and he gives us nickels in exchange for our recyclables. He then lets the state know we came in and recycled, and the state takes some nickels out of the big pile sent by the grocers and repays the recycler. The grocery store couldn't care less where (or if) you'll redeem your bottles; the recycler and the state couldn't care less where you bought the product. Any nickels collected but not paid out go to support the state program that administers this whole fandango. Recyclers also get a handling fee, and beverage manufacturers do too.

As of January 1, the list of recyclables has been expanded to include glass, plastic, and cans of virtually everything drinkable, from Perrier to Frappucino. Easier to list what's not recyclable: milk, beer, wine, liquor, infant formula, medicinal nutrition supplements, juice pouches, 46-ounce (or larger) juice containers, and a few odds and ends. Call 1-800-RECYCLE or check the website for details (www.consrv.ca.gov).

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