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Californians lose millions of dollars by recycling their deposits

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (California) – California consumers lost at least $ 308 million worth of nickel deposits in cans and bottles in 2018, largely because of the growing difficulty of finding a place to recycle them, according to a report. new report released Thursday.

In the past five years, approximately 40 percent of California's recycling centers have closed, and more than 100 in Los Angeles alone. The state says that 1,600 centers will remain open throughout the country, but the Consumer Watchdog consumer group said there are still obstacles to Californians' search for a recycling facility and that many grocery stores would not recover empty bottles.

The group's report suggests several reforms to the 33-year-old California recycling program, which has struggled to be profitable. Sen. Democrat Henry Stern also proposed to change the program.

"Californians are spending a penny on their cans … but more and more, they're only getting half that penny on average," Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court said. "Consumers lose, the environment loses."

The organization criticizes regulators for not overseeing the oversight offices, saying they should more aggressively sanction large retailers who do not exchange containers and do not underestimate the number of repositories they collect. He says the California Department of Recycling and Resource Recovery, known as CalRecycle, should spend more money promoting recycling centers and punishing companies that accumulate deposits.

"Overall, the program has been successful, but the last few years have brought challenges," said CalRecycle spokesman Mark Oldfield, citing broader market conditions. He added that the agency was looking for ways to increase the number of buyout sites, but estimated the amount of the non-refunded deposits at $ 272 million, which, according to the consumer group, removes fees. required by law, bringing the total to $ 308 million.

The consumer group provided an advanced copy of its report to the Associated Press.

It recommends doubling the amount of deposits in cents for each glass or plastic bottle or aluminum can to encourage more consumers to recycle, similar to the deposits required in Oregon and Canada. Michigan.

Consumers recycle at least nine out of every 10 containers. Approximately three in four containers are recycled in California, but this includes those purchased by bulk carriers as well as individual consumers. California currently charges 5 cents for containers under 24 ounces and 10 cents for large containers.

Beyond the 308 million USD of unclaimed deposits, the group says that consumers are depriving hundreds of millions of additional dollars, including 200 million USD in deposits for trucking companies and garbage collectors. He also cites a 2014 report by the Container Recycling Institute that shows undercounting of consumer-paid bottle deposits, although Mr. Oldfield stated that this number has never been proven.

On the legislative side, Stern's bill would limit the number of retailers to accept containers and allow about $ 3 million a year to encourage low-volume recycling centers to try to keep them open. A similar bill was passed last year, but former governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.

Stern said that he was trying to help small groceries "mom and pop" while restoring some incentives for recyclers.

"There is still a lot of work to be done in this area and I hope to work with consumer rights advocates to make sure that people are shaken up here," said Stern.

The Court stated that he hoped that Stern's bill would be a starting point for negotiations.

"This is not a redesign of the system, it actually creates more exemptions for groceries, which is a bad thing," said the court. "That's two things, but it does not go far enough."

Stern said the system needed to be improved before asking consumers to make larger deposits. Although Democrats control two-thirds of the majorities in both legislative chambers, Stern said he was cautious not to raise fees, even though, in theory, consumers would recoup their highest deposits when they did not. they would recycle.

"But if we can say that there is a good rational market, I am open," he said.

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