By Adam Beam, ASSOCIATED PRESS
November 22, 2019
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The director of the agency that oversees California’s recycling programs said Friday he will resign by the end of the year.
Scott Smithline announced Friday that he’ll leave his post with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery at the end of December. A spokesman for the agency, known as CalRecycle, confirmed the news.
Smithline did not respond to an email seeking comment.
CalRecycle is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency. CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld said he was grateful for Smithline’s “strong leadership,” praising him for helping wildfire survivors recover and for advancing “vital climate and recycling policy.”
“While we are sad that he is leaving, we understand his decision to focus more on his family,” Blumenfeld said.
The news comes as CalRecycle has been criticized by the advocacy group Consumer Watchdog for its response to the state’s recycling troubles.
California is one of 10 states that has a deposit-refund system for beverage containers. People pay an extra 5 cents for bottles up to 24 ounces and 10 cents for bottles more than 24 ounces. They can get that money back if they recycle the bottle or can once they are finished with it.
But it’s becoming harder to find a place to recycle in California. The value of scrap metal and aluminum has fallen while other countries, particularly China, have become more selective in the types of waste they will purchase from the U.S.
That’s made it tougher for recycling centers, which are not owned or operated by the state, to stay open. About half of the state’s recycling centers have closed in the past six years, according to Consumer Watchdog. The biggest blow came in August when RePlanet, the state’s largest operator of recycling centers, closed all 284 of its locations and laid off 750 workers.
In response, the state Legislature passed a bill authored by Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco that makes $5 million in grants available to local governments and nonprofits to expand recycling programs. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed that into law last month.
In February, Consumer Watchdog released a report estimating Californians forfeited at least $308 million in deposits last year mostly because its hard to find a recycling center. California has 1,201 recycling centers statewide, according to CalRecycle’s website.
Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court says he hopes the resignation leads to an overhaul of the state’s bottle deposit system.
“When half of the redemption centers in the state have closed over the last six years, it’s time for new leadership and a new director who recognizes the emergency for what it is,” Court said.