By Andrew Wheeler, SACRAMENTO BEE
August 5, 2019
The largest bottle and can recycling center chain in California, rePlanet, shut its doors Monday, terminating its entire workforce and creating a massive gap in recycling availability in the state.
“With the continued reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and PET plastic, and 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,” a company spokesman said in a statement Monday.
The company has shut doors at 284 sites throughout the state.
The closure led the group Consumer Watchdog to call on the state to step in and require all grocery and convenience store chains 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,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker 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.”
Consumers paid approximately $1.5 billion in nickel-and-dime bottle-and-can deposits in 2018, but got just half of that deposit back, according to a March Consumer Watchdog report.
CalRecycle, the state’s recycling program, is working to gather more information about the rePlanet closure, according to a statement.
“California 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,” according to the statement from CalRecycle. “That said, beverage container recycling centers are private businesses and many have decided to close in recent years, despite the subsidies they receive from the program, due to economic conditions affecting the industry as a whole.”