California Cuts Back on Funding for Statewide Recycling Program

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Author: Sarah Mofford

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger officially halted the California Bottle Bill Program on Nov. 1 by vetoing Senate Bill 402, cutting $450 million from the fund. This is in addition to an 85 percent cut made in July. In reaction to this abrupt lack of funding, several California recycling centers are suing the state for the funding necessary for their continued operation.

The California Bottle Bill Program was founded in 1986 and has provided funding to encourage recycling by charging consumers a small deposit included in the purchase cost of approved beverage containers. This deposit is given to any person who recycles the bottle.

However, because every bottle is not recycled, the deposit money returns to the state fund. Therefore the Bottle Bill Program has historically had a surplus.

Between 2003 and 2009 the California state legislature borrowed $415 million from the surplus and has not yet repaid the loans. Without this surplus, the programs run by the fund cannot afford to recycle bottles and reimburse the consumers who turn them in.

The final blow to the program came last month when Schwarzenegger vetoed Senate Bill 402. The bill was widely supported by the recycling community and would have increased the program’s revenue base by expanding it to include additional containers. Schwarzenegger has proposed to re-establish the recycling fund in the state’s new budget in January.

Oxy’s recycling program has been an institution since the fall of 1989.

Managing Director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute Mark Vallianatos said that Oxy will feel little effect from the fund cut. Occidental is reimbursed around $2,000 every year for recycling bottles. “We simply don’t have enough recycling volume to generate substantial payback,” Vallianatos said.In an average year, Oxy recycles 36,000 lbs. of green waste, 84,000 lbs. of glass CRV, 45 tons of cardboard, 45 tons of mixed paper and almost two tons of plastic, according to the Facilities Web site.

According to Employment Spectator, a blog that covers the job market around the country, the decrease in recycling funds has negatively impacted the recycling industry, especially programs like the California Conservation Corps (CCC).

The Conservation Corps employs 4,000 at risk youth statewide, and the cut back has led to 500 job cuts, with more cuts a future possibility. “We are their last resort,” spokesman for the California Association of Local Conservation Corps Scott Dosick said in a statement in reference to the youth the CCC employs, including high-school dropouts, former gang members and parolees. “If we lay them off, they’re pretty much back on the street. Once they’re gone, the odds of getting them back are extraordinarily slim.”

Many local recycling centers are already feeling the pinch of the loss of funds. “I’ve seen my income cut in half since the announcement,” said Jimmy Stuart, owner of J&S Recycling in Bay View, as reported in the Los Angeles Times.

Adrian White, president of Tomra Pacific Inc., a leading recycling company, said that his company has closed at least 33 recycling sites, or more than 8 percent of their total.The state’s largest recycling companies, Tomra Pacific and Nexcycle, who, combine, own 12 centers in San Francisco, recently filed a $416 million joint lawsuit against Sacramento, arguing the cuts will put them out of business.

They are supported by the Sierra Club and Californians Against Waste, who see the cut as a cut to green jobs. “Because it ran surplus, it was seen as free money,” said Brian Early of Californians Against Waste, “If you borrow from the fund to the point that the program is not working, then that’s illegal.”

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