One might assume that an environmentally-minded firm such as a plastic recycler would enjoy doing business in deep-blue California.

That assumption is entirely wrong.

California’s largest operator of recycling redemption centers has shut down and laid off 750 employees.

The Mercury News reported Monday that the company, Ontario-based RePlanet, has closed all 284 of its centers.

RePlanet President David Lawrence said the company stopped operating because of increased business costs and falling prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastic.

The move comes three years after RePlanet closed 191 of its recycling centers and laid off almost 300 employees.

In a classic example of the law of unintended consequences, the state’s $15/hour minimum wage rules are a contributing factor in its demise.

“With the continued reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and PET plastic, and the rise in operating costs resulting from minimum wage increases and required health and workers compensation insurance, the Company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable,” a company spokesman said in a statement Monday.

The company has shut doors at 284 sites throughout the state.

The closure led the group Consumer Watchdog to call on the state to step in and require all grocery and convenience store chains to begin redeeming bottles and cans.

“We warned just months ago that the bottle deposit program was in crisis and today’s closure shows consumers are being left in the lurch by the failure of the state to keep recycling centers open,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker in a statement. “Governor Newsom needs to tackle this problem personally and make reform of the broken bottle deposit system a top priority this fall. CalRecycle has failed to deal with the problems we have raised and they have now become a full blown crisis for consumers and recycling in California.”

It is hard not to experience a little schadenfreude at this turn of events. After all, how many avid recyclers were all in for the minimum wage increase?

So, how does Sacramento plan to solve this fun, new problem so its politicians can continue to virtue-signal about recycling plastics as they jet to the latest climate change summit? Through legislation of course!

A trio of bills is course their way through the state legislature.

Two of the bills, authored by Democrats Lorena Gonzalez in the Assembly and Ben Allen in the Senate, are identical and would require manufacturers to reduce waste from packaging and certain plastic products. The other, by Assemblyman Phil Ting, calls on manufacturers to increase the minimum recycled content in plastic beverage bottles over the next decade.

All of the bills have cleared their houses of origin and their authors say they are cautiously optimistic they will pass in the Democratic-controlled Assembly and Senate. They still face pushback, however, on their way to the governor’s desk, notably from a new and secretive coalition called Californians for Recycling and the Environment that is encouraging the public to tell legislators to vote no on Sen. Allen’s bill, SB 54.

The new rules will probably inspire business owners to make choices that do not involve either plastics or California.


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