KSBY Investigates: Vanishing recycling centers and the CRV - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

KSBY Investigates: Vanishing recycling centers and the CRV

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Hundreds of recycling centers have shut down across the state. Still, every time you buy a plastic bottle or aluminum can you pay California Redemption Value (CRV). 

California is one of 10 states to charge residents a deposit when they buy bottles and cans. It's five cents for a 24-ounce can and 10 cents for a larger one.

Consumers who take their bottles and cans to recycling facilities can get that money back.

"We recycle, but we also use it for extra money, like going out to lunch or fun things that you know we don't always have the money for," said Polly Huffer, Santa Maria resident.

The purpose of the fee, which was established in 1986, was to give consumers another reason to recycle.

"Every time we can recycle something and divert it out of our landfill, from ever getting there, that leaves space for refuse that should go in the landfill that belongs there," explained Mark van de Kamp, Public Information Officer for the City of Santa Maria. 

However, in the past three years, Shannon Larrabee of Larrabee Recycling in Santa Maria says the price for recycled material has decreased, forcing many buy-back centers, like hers, to close.

"Businesses don't close down if they've had a bad year," she said. "We are going into three-plus years of this situation with low scrap values and not a lot of help from CalRecycle." 

Larrabee says the money the state pays recycling centers wasn't enough for them to make a profit and remain open.

These closures are a hardship for many Central Coast residents who turn in their cans for cash.

"It's people's main income a lot of times," said Marisa Zubiate, Santa Maria resident. "I know even in my family there's people who live of off having to save up plastic and glass and having to bring it out to these centers." 

In the last year, 350 recycling centers in California have closed.

"You know there is none in Morro Bay that are open. Los Osos, they have a hard time turning in theirs, so when we come here (Larrabee Recycling), not only is it limited on where we can turn them in but it's also a long wait," said Melissa Jimenez, San Luis Obispo resident. 

That means people have to drive farther to cash in.

"When you have to drive 30 miles away to go turn them in, it's not even worth it," said Anthony Knight, Casmalia resident. "Spend more on gas just to get a few bucks."

"I think about putting my recyclables in the blue bin right in front of my own house instead of coming out here," said Rochelle Valles. "It just doesn't seem so much worth it anymore."

So, why are consumers are still paying CRV when it's become so difficult to get reimbursed?

"It's a challenging environment. We understand that and we are working hard to get some fixes to the program and it's going to take a little time," explained Mark Oldfield, CalRecycle Communications Director. 

CalRecycle is looking at some options. One proposal would require beverage manufacturers to pay CRV instead of the consumer. 

"We are going to work on changing the system because otherwise, the CRV is essentially an unfair tax and I think everybody agrees that we'd rather be recycling cans and bottles than having them end up in landfills," said Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham. 

The policy proposal was put forward early this January alongside the governor's budget. CalRecycle said the goal is to modernize the program with hopes of reopening recycling centers across the state.

There are still open recycling centers on the Central Coast. Click here for a list of recycling centers in San Luis Obispo County. Click here for a list of recycling centers in Santa Barbara County.

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