In a state that prides itself as a global leader in protecting the environment, recycling rates for beverage containers have dropped to their lowest point in almost a decade amid the continued closing of centers that pay for bottles and cans and the fallout from changes to California’s recycling program.
Beyond the environmental concerns, the financial effects are also growing — pinching large supermarket chains and low-income, and even homeless, residents alike.
Many people depend on the money they get from redeeming their recyclables, and for them, the widespread closures of recycling centers is dire. Having done surveys and found that people living in homeless encampments in Oakland, Fremont and Union City have indicated they were raising $50 to $100 a day by picking up cans and bottles that were under the redemption law.”
Some grocery stores are taking a hit as well, thanks to a state requirement that supermarkets must have a recycling center within a half-mile radius of the store. Otherwise they must redeem the containers in the store or pay a daily fine.
Beverage container recycling rates in California have fallen below 80 percent for the first time since 2008, acc
ording to data recently released by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (known as CalRecycle). In 2016, 79.8 percent of beverage containers were recycled, down from 81 percent in 2015. The beverage container recycling rate had reached a high of 85 percent as recently as 2013.
CalRecycle has to adjust the processing payments at least every January, according to the statute. But critics of the program say the formula is not responsive to what’s happening in the market right now. Oldfield said CalRecycle is determining whether it will adjust payments in the remaining quarters of the year.