Wines and Spirits Will Soon be Subject to California’s Bottle Bill

Alex Koral | August 7, 2023

Effective January 1, 2024, wine and spirits products will be subject to the California Beverage Container Recycling Program (BCRP). This change follows the passage of SB 1013 in September last year and reflects efforts by the state to help manage and reduce waste from beverage containers by extending the BCRP to a class of products that has so far been exempt.

The BCRP is designed to encourage recycling in California by requiring beverage companies to remit a deposit to the state that can be returned to the consumer when they bring their bottles back to a designated recycling location. These programs, also known as “bottle bills,” are active in several other states besides California, but as always in the beverage alcohol industry, each state’s specific rules and procedures are different.

How to manage the California BCRP

Companies selling beverages in California may be subject to the BCRP either as a “manufacturer” or as a “distributor.” Recognizing whether you are considered one of these parties—or both or neither—is critical to understanding what you will need to do to remain compliant with the BCRP. Note that the terms “manufacturer” and “distributor” have different definitions under the BCRP than they traditionally have in the beverage alcohol industry and are not reflected by any California licenses you may hold.

Manufacturer requirements

Under the BCRP, a “beverage manufacturer” is any party that:

  1. Bottles, cans or fills beverage containers in California;
  2. Imports beverages for sale into California to a distributor or other reseller (which would include most out-of-state producers);
  3. Is an out-of-state entity that ships wine direct-to-consumers (DtC) in California.

As written, this definition refers to the production facility where the beverage containers are filled, and so may not necessarily be the actual brand owner of the beverage, such as in a custom crush or white label situation. However, the brand owner can contractually assume the responsibility for managing the BCRP requirements, relieving their bottlers.

All beverage manufacturers subject to the BCRP are required to:

  1. Register with CalRecycle as a beverage manufacturer;
  2. Pay the processing fee for the beverages they sell in California.

Processing fees are based solely on the container material, not size, and are subject to change every calendar year. In 2023, the processing fee for glass is $0.00452 per container, but manufacturers should make sure to check with CalRecycle near the end of the year for any changes.

Beverage manufacturers must file a report on their sales and remit their processing fees monthly, with the report due on the 10th of the second month after sales have been made (so sales made in January 2024 will need to be reported by March 10, 2024). If a beverage manufacturer demonstrates compliance with these requirements, they can petition CalRecycle to report their sales annually.

Manufacturers must also ensure that their products are properly labeled in accordance with BCRP rules, discussed below.

Distributor requirements

Under the BCRP, a “distributor” is any entity that:

  1. Sells beverage containers to a retail store in California;
  2. Imports beverages into California for sale directly to retail stores or consumers;
  3. Holds an ABC Wine Direct Shippers Permit and actively ships wine DtC to California consumers;
  4. Produces beverages in California and sells directly to consumers from their facilities.

As such, most California wineries and any out-of-state DtC wine shipper will likely be considered both a manufacturer and distributor under the BCRP and need to comply with both requirements. Notably, SB 1013 specifically included Wine Direct Shippers Permit holders, making California the only state to make out-of-state DtC shippers subject to its bottle bill. (In every other state with a recycling redemption program, either wine is not an included party or DtC wine shippers are specifically made exempt.)

Distributors subject to the BCRP are required to:

  1. Register with CalRecycle as a distributor;
  2. Collect and remit the California Redemption Value (CRV) for the beverages they sell in the state.

Currently, the CRV for glass, plastic and aluminum containers is $0.05 if under 24 ounces, or $0.10 if 24 ounces or greater. Wine and spirits products that are sold in boxes, bladders, pouches or other non-standard container types have a CRV of $0.25.

Beverage distributors must file a report on their sales and remit their CRV collections monthly, with the report due by the end of the month after sales have been made (so sales made in January 2024 will need to be reported by February 29, 2024). Like beverage manufacturers, distributors can petition for annual reporting once they demonstrate compliance with these requirements.

Registering with CalRecycle

The process for registering with CalRecycle is the same for both beverage manufacturers and distributors, and a business can register as both at the same time. A manufacturer and/or distributor will need to fill out the online form, or mail in a copy of the PDF form, identifying the products they sell, the container types they use and how they sell in California.

The registration form asks when the company began selling in California, however wine and spirits producers should instead select the date when they will be subject to the BCRP, namely January 1, 2024.

Wine and spirits producers will not be subject to any of the collection or reporting requirements until 2024, but they are highly encouraged to register with CalRecycle as soon as possible to make sure their accounts are active and in order by the January 1 effective date.

Labeling requirements

Products subject to the California BCRP must be properly labeled with one of these five allowable CRV messages clearly visible on the container:

  5. CA CRV

There are further rules about spacing, font size and placement of these messages that must also be met. While there is no requirement to get a label approved before it is sold in the state, CalRecycle will review labels upon request to confirm whether or not they are in compliance.

Importantly, these labeling requirements will be optional for wine and spirits products until July 1, 2025, though wine and spirits producers are encouraged not to wait until the last minute to get their labels in order. No wine or spirits products sold before January 1, 2024 may have the CRV labeling on it.

This extended timeline should give everyone plenty of time to prepare, including figuring out some lingering issues, such as labeling for vintage products and whether alternatives like QR codes will be allowed.

In all, the expansion of the California BCRP to include wine and spirits products is a major undertaking for both the state and the industry, and it can only be hoped that it will be worth it and foster greater waste management and recycling in the state. For wine and spirits producers, there is a lot to take in and prepare for, and they should take time now to understand what their responsibilities will be going forward.

To that, CalRecycle has made several resources available to help explain the changes, including this informative webinar. As we get closer to the effective date and as more information becomes available, we at Sovos ShipCompliant will also do our part to help inform the industry and support our users in their compliance needs.

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