Recycling

Local consumers who want to be refunded the California Redemption Value (CRV) paid for plastic, aluminum and glass recyclables have had to look elsewhere since mega-recycler RePlanet closed in August.

RePlanet, which had local operations in Brentwood and Antioch, was one of the largest recycling centers in California. It closed all 284 of its locations in the state after the business determined its operation was no longer profitable. 

These closures have left those in East County — and elsewhere — wondering where to redeem their recyclables. Few standalone redemption centers remain. According to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), 40% of state-certified recycling centers have closed in the last five years.

The California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act dictates that retailers selling beverages under the CRV program have two options: Return the value of empty containers if the “convenience zone” in which they are located is not served by a standalone redemption center, or pay a $100 per day fee to the state.

According to CalRecycle, a convenience zone is typically a half-mile radius circle (in urban and suburban areas) with the center point originating at a supermarket with gross annual sales of $2 million or more, and is considered a full-line store, selling dry groceries, canned goods, or non-food items and perishable items. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 54 (AB 54) on Oct. 12, which provides $5 million in subsidies to retailers affected by closures to help their business in the interim, but he said this is only a temporary fix for both consumers and businesses.

Newsom wrote in a statement about the legislation that the bill is “an important but stopgap measure to address the recent closure of recycling centers throughout the state.”

“The California Beverage Container Recycling Program has long faced structural challenges and is in need of reform,” Newsom wrote. “I look forward to working with the Legislature in the coming year on a comprehensive solution for this program as part of the ongoing discussion about the future of how we manufacture, reduce, reuse, recycle and compost materials in California.”

Due to expense, most retailers in East County are opting to redeem recyclables in store rather than pay the daily fee.

Raley’s — ­­­in Brentwood at 2400 Sand Creek Road, and in Antioch at 3632 Lone Tree Way — has taken recyclables in store since 2016 when the first round of RePlanet closures affected the area, deeming it underserved by standalone recycling centers. At these locations, customers’ recyclables are received at the back door of the store. According to Chelsea Minor, corporate director for consumer and public affairs, the stores avoid accepting open containers in store to protect the health and safety of customers and team members.

Minor says the changes have been difficult for Raley’s.

“One challenge faced by grocery stores is that we are a food retailer and required to take recycling material back in the store, which our stores are not built for the takeback, both for space and logistics,” Minor wrote in an email to The Press. “The health and safety of our customers and team members is our top priority, and taking back recycled materials can be a challenge. In addition, there is no infrastructure for retailers to recycle the material and recoup the dollars paid to customers. Unfortunately, the system is built that the state keeps the money, and the retailer eats the cost of the payout. We want to be a part of the solution to ensure materials are recycled, but the current system is imperfect.”

Safeway stores at 3110 Balfour Road in Brentwood and 3365 Deer Valley Road in Antioch have begun accepting CRV recyclables in store more recently.

“At Safeway, we comply with state law, and when stores are notified by CalRecycle, we work with their agency to remain in compliance,” Northern California spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall wrote in an email to The Press. “We accept CRV redemption at select stores in unserved areas at the customer service desk.  Like many other grocers, we have limited capacity at store level, and this is an interim procedure while a broader solution statewide continues to be discussed with lawmakers, CalRecycle, the grocery industry and California Grocers Association.”

To search for standalone recycling centers, visit www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/bevcontainer/recyclingcenters. To search for retailers that redeem recyclables, visit www2.calrecycle.ca.gov/bevcontainer/instoreredemption.

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