Watchdog, legislator offer plans to overhaul California’s recycling program

California lawmakers will consider legislation Wednesday, Jan. 15 to revamp the state’s struggling recycling program for bottles and cans — a program Consumer Watchdog fears may collapse unless significant changes are made.

The Santa Monica-based nonprofit held a press conference Tuesday, Jan. 14 to highlight findings of its new report, “Trashed: How California Recycling Failed and How to Fix It.” The study was released as Sacramento lawmakers debate an overhaul of the state’s recycling programs.

The report notes that redemption centers are closing at an alarming rate, and consumers are getting back only about half of the $1.5 billion worth of nickel and dime deposits they pay each year.

California consumers receive 5 cents for most glass bottles, plastic bottles or aluminum cans that hold less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for containers of 24 ounces or more, according to CalRecycle, the state department that oversees California’s recycling programs.

The state took a major hit in August when rePlanet closed 284 redemption centers. rePlanet CEO David Lawrence linked the closure to a reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and plastic, and the rise in operating costs resulting from minimum wage increases and required health and workers compensation insurance.

“Half of our recycling centers have closed over the last six years,” Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court said. “Anywhere you buy a bottle or can … you should be able to take it back right there. You shouldn’t have to go under a freeway or go miles away.”

Carlos Guzman, operations manager at Republic Services in Anaheim, stands next to a mound of recyclables waiting to be sorted. (File photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG) Retailers aren’t picking up the slack

The problem, Consumer Watchdog says, has been compounded by the fact that supermarket chains and other beverage retailers — although legally obligated to be recyclers of last resort — are often refusing to redeem consumer deposits. CalRecycle has only recently begun policing its program and punishing retailers who fail to comply, the report said.

CalRecycle spokesman Lance Klug said his agency has stepped up enforcement of its recycling program.

“We have conducted 2,500 inspections of obligated retailers to ensure they are providing take-back of containers in-store,” he said via email. “The department continues to prioritize the most egregious cases against retailers refusing to comply with responsibilities, including a $3.6 million enforcement action against CVS.”

Klug said $1.05 billion was paid out in CRV (California Refund Value) redemptions in 2019. That’s the amount paid to consumers when they recycle beverage containers at certified recycling centers. Beverage distributors paid out another $1.35 billion in redemption fees.

“Last year Californians recycled approximately 18 billion containers through the program, a similar amount to how many were recycled the year before,” Klug said.

SB 372

On Wednesday, Jan. 15, the Senate Environmental Quality Committee will take up Senate Bill 372.

Authored by Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, the measure would make the beverage industry accountable for recycling and redemption of its containers. Distributors of beverage containers in California would be …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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