CALIFORNIA BUDGET LOSERS: Recycling - State Senate Fails to Authorize Reinstatement of Recycling Payments for Curbside and Other

More than 560 Recycling Centers Have Closed; Rates Below 80% for first time since 2008

SACRAMENTO – Despite closed recycling centers and falling recycling rates, California’s State Senate rejected a proposal that would have reinstated recycling payments to 2015 levels. Payment reductions have resulted in the closure of more than 560 recycling centers.

The recycling proposal advanced by the Assembly and supported by the Governor’s office would have authorized the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling (CalRecycle), to utilize a portion (about $30 million) of a $250 million surplus in the State Beverage Container Recycling Fund, to fund the state’s recycling infrastructure at 2015 levels.

Since program funding levels were reduced in 2016, more than 560 recycling centers have closed and beverage container recycling rates have fallen below 80% for the first time since 2008.  Data from CalRecycle indicates that 1.6 million fewer containers per day were recycled during the last 6 months of 2016, resulting in more than 22,000 tons of increased litter and waste.

“Despite a $250 million fund surplus, California’s recycling operations are being short changed, resulting in closed centers and declining recycling rates,” said Mark Murray, executive director of the environmental group Californians Against Waste. “The State Assembly has consistently supported full funding, and this week the Governor’s office got on board.”

No word on why the State Senate rejected the proposal.  The Conference Committee on the Budget is chaired by State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). Other members include: Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens); Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa); Senator Jim Nielsen (R- Gerber); and Senator Richard Roth (D – Riverside).  The proposal was authored by Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting (D – San Francisco).

The recycling program budget fix was supported by a broad coalition of local governments, recycler, curbside programs, retailers and environmental groups. There was no known opposition.

The loss of recycling centers has hit rural areas especially hard. For consumers who try to supplement family income by redeeming containers, the loss of buyback recycling locations has reduced total redemption pay-back by more than $3 million per month. 

In an April report to the Legislature, California’s Legislative Analyst’s office attributed the closures to a decline in scrap prices and “program payments that do not sufficiently cover recycler costs”.

As recently as 2013, the California Bottle Bill had an 85 percent recycling rate, diverting more than one million tons of plastic, glass and metal, and contributing thousands of jobs and more than $2 billion to the state’s economy, while delivering the equivalent of 1.45 million tons of reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

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