Band-aid for closing recycling centers passes California Assembly

Reprinted from the Sacramento Bee (6/27/2016)

Recyclers and grocery stores would get a reprieve from the causes and fallout of a wave of recycling center closures – and policymakers could get prodded toward a larger deal – under a budget bill that passed the Assembly on Monday.

Hundreds of facilities that pay cash for used bottles and cans have closed around the state this year, with recyclers placing much of the blame on lower subsidies from the state’s recycling fund. If recycling centers vanish, grocery stores become obligated to take back recyclables themselves or face fines, so the California Grocers Association has been lobbying for a grace period.

A short-term fix initially failed to make it into the budget. Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration favors a broader overhaul of California’s wobbly recycling system, which has faced annual deficits in the tens of millions of dollars.

But amid a late lobbying push by grocers, retailers, recyclers and organized labor, the Assembly crafted a stopgap measure that would freeze payments to recyclers at higher 2015 rates and give grocers a reprieve through April of 2017. The Senate and Brown still need to approve the measure.

There’s a catch: Payments to everyone involved in the teeming recycling ecosystem, from manufacturers to supermarkets, would halt altogether as of April 2017. Lawmakers said that impending loss of funds would give parties an incentive to produce a deal.

“We felt strongly there needed to be a temporary solution,” said Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, but with the 2017 deadline, “it sets a cliff, essentially,” that all parties will want to avoid tumbling off of.
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