Monday, August 14, 2017

Recycling: But We Meant Well

Foster City, August, 2016: not the tidiest business
Fans (hi, Mom!) of this blog know that every few months we bag up our cans and bottles and turn them in for cash. It was always mystifying how the process made sense economically---the consumer pays 5 or 10 cents per bottle CRV ("California Redemption Value") going in and gets a little of it back if he bothers to haul them to the recycling centers. The difference supposedly pays for the operating costs of the recycler, who also gets revenue from selling the used bottles and cans and a subsidy from the government. It turns out that the house of cans is about to topple.

The resale value plus the government subsidy are still not enough to keep the recyclers in business: [bold added]
the value of recyclables has decreased in recent years, meaning [recycling business owner Ors] Csaszar makes less on the collected bottles and cans he sells. On top of that, state subsidies meant to offset the cost of recycling have failed to keep pace with the rising costs of doing business.

Hundreds of recycling centers have shuttered in the past two years across the state, resulting in millions of plastic, aluminum and glass containers going to landfills. In the past two years more than 500 recycling centers closed their doors, leaving 1,650 throughout the state, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle.
To sum up, recycling is a government-mandated environmental program that:
  • adds $millions to the cost of consumer products;
  • created an industry that is unable to survive without a government subsidy;
  • is so uneconomic that even with the subsidy nearly a quarter of the locations have closed (so far);
  • doesn't accomplish what it set out to do anyway ("millions...going to landfills").

    But wait, it gets worse: the government extracts penalties from businesses.
    The law also requires stores that sell the beverages to have a place for consumers to return their bottles and cans within a half mile. If not, the stores themselves are required to either allow customers to recycle there, or pay a $100 a day fee.

    Many stores opt to pay the $36,500 annual fee, saying they are unable to set up a recycling center at their location.
    Consumers lose, businesses lose, the recyclers lose, the environment loses anyway.

    I can't wait to see how California runs single-payer.
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