California's largest recycling center closes and shuts 300 redemption sites – The Mercury News

The state's largest operator of recycling redemption centers has closed all 284 of the centers, leaving 750 employees without jobs and many dependent on revenue from the redemption of bottles and boxes without options.

RePlanet, which operates recovery redemption and processing centers across California, joined the business and will undergo a process to have liquid assets and creditors paid, according to a statement from the company's president and chief financial officer David Lawrence.

"With the continued reduction in state taxes, depressed prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastics, and the increase in operating costs due to minimum wage increases and required health and employee insurance, the company has concluded that the operation of these recycling centers and support operations did not longer is sustainable, "the statement says.

The move comes three years after RePlanet shut down 1[ads1]91 of recycling centers and laid off 278 employees, citing the same reasons for falling aluminum and plastic prices and rising business costs.

"We are devastated to hear that RePlanet is closing all its websites and all its doors," said Jenna Abbott, CEO of Protect CRV, a young trade group of local owners and customers for recycling centers formed just over a year ago to advocate for state legislation and guidelines to protect recycling centers. "The best case is that people have to travel further to (get money back on) their redeemable containers. In the worst case scenario: they may not have that option."

Those who may not have that option include the homeless or others who are

And the overall result will be more boxes and bottles ending up in landfills.

"It's a huge blow to California's recycling infrastructure," Abbott said of RePlanet's closure.

The closure will leave parts behind of the Bay area with few or no options to redeem recyclable materials, RePlanet had centers in Brentwood, Antioch, Concord, San Francisco, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz, among others.

The closure is an alarming proposition signal that the state needs to do more to help the recycling industry.

Liza Tucker, a nonprofit Consumer Watchdog spokeswoman who has studied the issues in California's recycling industry, urges the state to reform the way it subsidizes recycling centers. Currently, CalRecycle – the state recycling regulator calculates government payments to recycling centers by averaging the cost of operating centers. But business costs are going up, and it's especially expensive to run the centers located in grocery store parking spaces, which happen to be the most convenient options for people.

As government payments to recycling centers shrink, and the value of aluminum and plastics stays low, recycling centers struggle to stay in business.

According to the Consumer Watchdog, more than 40 percent of all redemption centers have closed in the last five years. A report from the group published earlier this year found that the closure of redemption recycling centers means that consumers only get about half of their nickel and crown deposits back from bottles and cans each year.

The Consumer Advocacy Group wants the state to require dealers who sell bottles and cans to fix them, as other states have done. While thousands are going to redeem them, a consumer dog survey found that two-thirds of retailers are not following through on the commitment. While many may not know that they will accept bottles and cans and return instances, some will simply refuse to do so.

Recycling companies that empty the curb meanwhile are struggling with dirty recyclable materials that end up going to landfills because China has become far more stringent about what kind of waste it will buy from the United States.

Moreover, Tucker said, the redemption money from recyclability should go back into the pockets of consumers, and until there are more opportunities to do so, recycling will suffer.

"If consumers could just take the empties of stores and redemption centers were everywhere, consumers would receive a refund, and we would have less garbage and more recyclable material to make new bottles and cans," she said in a written statement.

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