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Out-of-state bottles cost California recycling program

By: Shawn Wright

October 8, 2012

SACRAMENTO (Oct. 8, 12:40 p.m. ET) — California had a 100 percent return rate for cans last year and a plastic containers’ rate that reached 104 percent.

But with a little more than 8.5 billion recyclable cans sold in California and 8.3 billion redeemed, it’s just not realistic, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The reason is that the state’s recycling redemption program has led to increased recycling fraud to the tune of at least $40 million a year and could exceed $200 million with semi-trailers full of cans and bottles crossing the border from surrounding states, the newspaper said.

During a three-month period last summer, the California Department of Food and Agriculture found that 3,500 vehicles, including 505 rental trucks filled with cans, brought in used beverage containers through the state’s 16 border stations.

California is the only state in the region, besides Oregon, that has a mandatory container deposit program. The state charges 5 cents for most cans and bottles and 10 cents for larger containers (24 ounces or greater).

Even though only products sold in California are eligible, the approximately 2,300 privately run recycling centers are not usually concerned that the aluminum or plastic is coming from surrounding states such as Arizona or Nevada, the newspaper said.

“The law says California has to make it easy to recycle … so [for] anyone with a devious mind, it’s so easy; they can just go right in,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Chapman, who has investigated fraud rings in recent months, told the newspaper.

To help curb the influx, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law last month that will require people importing more than 25 pounds of aluminum or plastic or 250 pounds of glass to declare at the border what their purpose is and the source and destination of the recyclables, the newspaper said.