By I-Chun Chen, LA BIZ

August 6, 2019…

Citing the increased costs of processing recycled items, RePlanet, California's largest operator of recycling redemption centers has closed, leaving 750 employees out of jobs.

The Ontario, California-based company has closed all 284 of its centers, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Company President David Lawrence told the newspaper the decision to close was due to increased business costs and falling prices of recycled aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic.

The move came three years after RePlanet closed 191 of its recycling centers and laid off 278 workers.

In the wake of RePlanet’s closure, which leaves few places for people to redeem bottles and other recyclables, nonprofit Consumer Watchdog called on state officials to prioritize recycling reform.

Consumer Watchdog urged CalRecycle, the state agency in charge of recycling, to require every grocery and convenience store chain to begin redeeming bottles and cans.

"We warned just months ago that the bottle deposit program was in crisis and today's closure shows consumers are being left in the lurch by the failure of the state to keep recycling centers open," consumer advocate Liza Tucker said in a statement. "Governor Newsom needs to tackle this problem personally and make reform of the broken bottle deposit system a top priority this fall. CalRecycle has failed to deal with the problems we have raised and they have now become a full blown crisis for consumers and recycling in California.”

Consumer Watchdog estimated that more than 40 percent of all redemption centers have closed in the last five years, resulting in fewer people redeeming their deposits. A March report by the organization found that consumers get only about half of their nickel and dime bottle and can deposits back each year, despite paying $1.5 billion in 2018.

Advocates have also urged the state to reform how it subsidizes recycling centers to alleviate rising operating costs.

Earlier this year, California lawmakers proposed a bill, AB1080, that would require plastic and other single-use materials sold in the state to be either reusable, fully recyclable or compostable by 2030. The bill passed the state Assembly and is under consideration in the Senate.