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Consumer Watchdog Urges Immediate Budget Fix to Save CA Recycling Program; In Crisis After Grocers Kill Life Line For Centers In Legislature

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 11:00
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Recycling Center Closure

Los Angeles, CA—Consumer Watchdog has asked the Newsom Administration to avert the closure of more recycling centers that redeem empty glass, aluminum, and plastic beverage containers by funding centers long enough to reform the container deposit system. 

 “California’s system of recycling empty beverage containers is in crisis and needs your urgent action,” Consumer Watchdog wrote in a letter to CalEPA Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld. “More than 40 percent of all state-certified redemption centers have closed in the last several years. This leaves consumers with fewer and fewer options to recycle and redeem their nickel and dime deposits that totaled $1.5 billion last year.” 

Read the letter here.

“The trend will accelerate without a budget fix to help the recycling centers stay open another year.  We appreciate your stated concerns about recycling in California and ask that you work with us to make sure that recycling centers stay open until a long-term solution to the problem is found. We pledge to work with you on that solution, but a short-term fix is needed to protect consumers and the environment.” 

In the letter, Consumer Watchdog proposes that the Administration allocate annually roughly 10 percent of the deposit system’s stockpiled $360 million in unclaimed consumer deposits to buttress existing recycling centers. The $36 million per year would be used to make payments retroactively from January 2019 through December 2020, while a reformed deposit system would take effect in January 2021. 

“The budget urgency heightened just recently when Senate legislation (SB 724 - Stern), that would have thrown a life line to the recycling centers, failed after the grocers’ lobby, which sought greater exemptions from being the recycler of last resort, were denied new exemptions in the Senate Appropriations Committee,” Consumer Watchdog wrote Blumenfeld.

Closure of more than 1,000 centers in recent years has left consumers with access to only one center on average per 26,000 people. Frustrated consumers throw away more of the empties from 24 billion beverages they buy a year instead of redeeming them. This lack of access contributed to consumers losing almost half of the $1.5 billion they paid in bottle deposits last year (Read Consumer Watchdog’s March report on the topic HERE). 

Supermarkets and other retailers are legally required to step in for recycling centers if they fold, but a recent survey of markets by Consumer Watchdog found two thirds do not live up to that obligation ( Read the survey HERE). 

“A major factor in lack of consumer access to recycling is supermarkets, including major grocery, drug, and convenience store chains, refusing to be recyclers of last resort.  These stores, which our recent survey shows shirk their legal duties, should not be permitted to kill the recycling program by holding it hostage for greater exemptions from their obligation to be providers of last resort. 

“Longer term, we agree bigger steps are needed to reform recycling.  To save the program now, however, so it can be reformed later, we ask that the Administration allocate short-term funding to maintain hard-hit recycling centers.”