Recycling fund shrinks, centers close

At least six recycling centers in San Diego County have closed due to the state budget crisis, it was reported Saturday.

More than $450 million has been siphoned out of the state recycling fund since 2002, mostly to help close budget gaps, but state officials say enough money remains to pay customers who return cans and bottles. But they can no longer subsidize handlers and processors like they once did, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

“It’s going to be a blow,” Anne Bernstein at the Urban Corps of San Diego County told the newspaper. The group relies on payments from the recycling account to fund its collection program.

“There is a good chance that all of these recyclables are just going to be thrown in the trash,” Bernstein said.

Recycling companies and advocates blame repeated legislative raids on the state’s recycling account, which uses unclaimed can and bottle deposits to support recycling huts in shopping- center parking lots and related programs.

The six stations closed so far, include kiosks at Albertson’s stores in Fallbrook and Kearny Mesa, and a Ralphs in Mission Valley.

Dan Regan, who owns four facilities in San Diego, said his clients include a kindergarten teacher who turns in bottles and cans to pay for gas, and firefighters who do it as a fundraiser.

“Residents rely on this, especially this year,” Regan said.

The state Department of Conservation’s Web site says the fiscal troubles stem from more people recycling bottles and cans that qualify for the California Refund Value, better known as the CRV. But recycling industry leaders say the biggest problem is the legislative actions, portrayed as loans from the fund.

An alliance of recycling companies has sued the state, demanding that the loans be reimbursed and handling fees restored.

Without those payments, the lawsuit said, about 1,200 recycling stations near major shopping centers statewide are in jeopardy because they are money-losing operations, the Union-Tribune reported.

Adrian White, president of Riverside County-based recycler TOMRA Pacific Inc., said the only way to prevent a collapse of California’s consumer-friendly recycling program is for lawmakers to adopt a new strategy when they return to the Capitol in January.

White said a good start would be to increase the deposit on 20-ounce bottles to 10 cents from the current nickel and to expand the program to include a broader range of containers.

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