State Leaders Should Care About Plastic Bottles as Much as Plastic Bags

The following text is as published by the San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board on May 22, 2017. See the original article here

Last year, California voters made the state the first in the nation with a ban on single-use plastic bags by approving Proposition 67. The argument that the durable bags were a long-term threat to land and sea carried the day.

Against this backdrop, it is perverse that the state program that oversees collection and recycling of single-use plastic, metal and glass bottles from consumers in return for giving them back 5-cent and 10-cent deposits is faltering. The 1987 “Bottle Bill” that set up this recycling incentive included a provision that directed unredeemed deposits to the CalRecycle agency for use in reimbursing bottle-collection sites when scrap plastic, glass and metal prices are too low for the sites to make money. But as detailed in a column in Friday’s newspaper by Mark Murray, executive director of Californians Against Waste, more than 560 recycling centers have closed since January 2016 because scrap prices are at record lows and CalRecycle won’t adjust its rates.

Former EPA official Jared Blumenfeld wrote recently in The Sacramento Bee that as a result, “every day 2 million additional containers are littered or sent to a landfill, including more than 1 million plastic bottles every day.” Every day!

Officials with the Brown administration say CalRecycle doesn’t have the flexibility to increase the rates. Recyclers say yes, the agency does because of legislation that says that the state shall provide “reasonable financial returns” to bottle collectors. But if the state thinks it’s right, why doesn’t Gov. Jerry Brown order his staff to draft a bill that would give CalRecyle the authority it needs?