Recyclers of Last Resort

CGA saves industry nearly $25 million

When Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 54 into law last month, he validated an argument CGA has been putting forth for quite some time. Grocers should not be recyclers of last resort.

With hundreds of grocery store locations impacted by recent recycling center closures, AB 54’s temporary reprieve from this role will save California’s grocery community nearly $25 million through March, 2020.

“In the aftermath of this year’s surprise rePlanet closures, CGA stepped in to offer policy solutions to support the grocery industry, California’s environmental values, and the customers served by our industry,” said CGA President and CEO Ron Fong. “We applaud Assemblymember Ting’s sincere effort to craft a balanced policy approach that takes into account the unforeseen burden recycling center closures would place on grocers — especially due to the fact grocers did nothing to cause these closures.” 

This temporary relief marks a significant political feat. Its passage required a tight rope walk between competing interests such as local jurisdictions, manufacturers and environmentalists. And as a big problem that has gone unattended to for too long, despite our industry’s pleas, fixing the entire recycling ecosystem felt at times akin to homelessness, housing or any number of other intractable issues the state faces. All have in common the need to satisfy competing stakeholders amidst a complicated policy debate. In this regard, AB 54 also provides momentum heading into the next legislative season.

Under the newly-signed law, grocers impacted by recycling center closures that occurred between August 1 and September 1, 2019 are exempt from in-store bottle redemption and the $100-per-day fees in lieu of recycling, until March 1, 2020.  Retailers located in unserved convenience zones will now be able to partner with recyclers outside store location parking lots.

The bill also provides additional funding for low-performing recycling centers and earmarks budget resources for mobile recycling pilot programs.

“A number of our member companies have been working to spearhead mobile recycling initiatives,” Fong explained. “We’re excited the Governor saw the need for immediate action and that legislative efforts lined up behind new and innovative approaches to recycling.”

Because AB 54 contained an Urgency Clause, the bill went into effect upon its signing. This means any affected grocer will immediately benefit from the new law.