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California's largest recycling business closes, 750 laid off

SAN JOSE, California (AP) – California's largest recycling redemption operator closed Monday, laying off 750 employees.

RePlanet closed all 284 of the centers, and company president David Lawrence said the decision was driven by increased business costs and falling prices for recycled aluminum and PET plastics, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The move came three years after RePlanet closed 191 of the recycling centers and laid off 278 workers.

Many San Francisco Bay area residents now have few or no options to redeem recyclable materials, particularly those living in poverty or experiencing homelessness and relying on income recycling.

The Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that studies issues in California's recycling industry, estimated that more than 40% of all redemption centers have closed in the last five years. The closures mean that consumers only get back about half of their nickel and separation bottles and can settle down, according to a recent report from nonprofits.

The closures also mean that more bottles made of aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, will end up in landfills. People will either throw their recycling materials directly in the garbage, or place them in the recycling bin on the street, which is often filled with contaminated material that must be thrown away. China, which has purchased much of the US recyclable material, has become more stringent about what kind of material it will accept.

Attorneys urge the state to reform how it subsidizes recycling centers to account for rising operating costs in the wake of continuously low prices for aluminum and plastics.

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