"That's what it comes down to: I'm paying a nickel and I'm not getting it back," says Barton Johnston.
Johnston says just recently recyclers are refusing to count his bottles to get a CRV refund.
"All of the sudden, one day I go there, I put it in, the machine kept kicking it out," says Johnston. "The guy working there pointed out, 'We don't take bottles no more, only in bulk.' It says it's a nickel. It's going to take an awful lot of these [plastic bottles] to make one nickel if you get a bulk price."
He's right, and the state is on his side.
"If you want to be paid by count, just ask," says Mark Oldfield, CalRecycle. "They have to do it."
That's the issue: You have to ask.
The signs at most places only indicate what they pay by weight, as if there is no other option. But there is another option: If you bring in fewer than 50 bottles of any type, you can ask they be counted.
"They pay for them by count, a nickel per container, and when they go to a recycling center, they can get 50 or less paid to them back by count -- that's 50 aluminum, 50 glass and 50 plastic, all in the same transaction," says Oldfield.
"I've never been asked that question, this is the first time," says Robert Nahatetian. "We just put them in here, and then just drop them in, they just weigh, and pay whatever."
And even if you ask, sometimes you're told you can't do it. That's what Nahatetian was told at one facility.
"What he says is, 'This facility, we're weighing everything,'" says Nahatetian.
The person at the facility didn't want to talk on camera. But the California Dept. of Resources Recycling and Recovery says it's against the law. If a recycler refuses to count your bottles you should report it to the state hotline.
"We have folks on those lines who will get the information about the recycling center, where this happened, get the story from the consumer, and then we'll get in contact with that recycling center and set them straight as to what the state law really does require," says Mark Oldfield.
It can result in fines and the recycler could be suspended.
Nahatetian says now that he knows the law, he'll make sure to get all his CRV money back.
"We're talking maybe 50 cents, 60, 70, but hey, nowadays, everything counts," says Nahatetian.
For more information, you can call CalRecycle at 1-800-RECYCLE.