California's beverage container recycling program is in trouble because state officials have been using money from the recycling fund to close the budget gap.
When people return cans and bottles at a recycling center, they receive money from the state's recycling fund. Bottlers like Coca-Cola and Arrowhead are required to pay into that fund to encourage recycling -- and then tack on the surcharge to consumers at the grocery store.
But many people don't bother returning their empty cans to a recycling center, giving the state's fund a large surplus -- hundreds of millions of dollars. In the past, much of it would be used to subsidize recycling facilities.
Now, though, that money is disappearing, say environmentalists, raided by state officials who have been trying to close the state’s multi-billion dollar budget gap.
When those subsidies start getting scarce, recycling companies start cutting back. Kiosk like the ones at your local supermarket shut down and employees are laid off. One recycling company has already cut back eight percent, with more cuts possible.
Jose De La
Rosa’s small recycling company in Van Nuys
is already seeing the effects of this. Forty percent more people, he says, since the state started dipping into that fund, and he’s not sure he can handle that.
“The more people I get, the more crowded it gets, the more problems I get from the city. That’s my only concern,” De La Rosa said.
By law, large California supermarkets are supposed to accept recyclables and dispense money for them. But recyclers say that’s easier said than done. The inconvenience of carrying sticky, leaking cans into a market, and then flagging down a manager for your money may be just too much bother.
Environmentalists fear that the state’s robust recycling process will slow down, because when this can’t be done easily, many people won’t do it at all.