Story courtesy of the Orange County Register
Recycling center rePlanet has closed all of its 284 centers in California, resulting in hundreds of layoffs. Los Angeles-based Consumer Watchdog has called for CALRecycle, the state agency in charge of recycling, to require the retail outlets to begin redeeming bottles and cans for cash. CALRecycle, a department of the state EPA, said requiring all retailers in California to redeem beverage containers would require a change in statute, and has not taken a position on that.
rePlanet has operated in California since 1984, and at its peak had more than 600 redemption centers. In 2016, it closed 191 locations and let nearly 300 employees go, leaving smaller California communities with no place for consumers to redeem empties. Between 650 and 750 employees were laid off with the new closures, according to news reports.
David Lawrence, rePlanet’s President & CFO, linked the closures to a variety of factors.
“With the continued reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, the rise in operating costs resulting from minimum wage increases and required health and workers compensation insurance, the company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable,” he said via email.
Consumer Watchdog believes it should be mandatory for bottles and cans to be redeemed at any retailer that sells them, however a survey in March revealed two-thirds of retail stores would not follow through with this promise. CALRecycle said the claim is misleading, as Consumer Watchdog only surveyed 50 stores.
Another Consumer Watchdog report asserts consumers get only about half of their nickel and dime bottle and can deposits back each year, despite paying $1.5 billion in 2018. CALRecycle said that claim is “inconsistent with audits findings and reporting.”
CalRecycle said it has taken action to stabilize Beverage Container Recycling Program subsidies paid to beverage container buyback centers to help cover the cost of processing materials and will continue to explore ways to support the program.