Recycling centers in California are shutting down, causing widespread concern over recycling rates.
More than a fifth of the recycling centers in the state have closed in the past year, according to the Associated Press. What's causing the closures? The price of recycled plastic, glass, and aluminum is decreasing, and the state program meant to help recycling centers survive fluctuating prices isn't keeping up.
As a result, more than 450 recycling centers have closed and more are expected to shut down in the coming year.
The impact on consumers
California is one of 10 states that have recycling centers or redemption centers. When consumers buy beverages, they're charged a five or ten-cent deposit. To recoup that deposit, consumers can return their empty cans to a recycling center.
The process started back in 1986 when state lawmakers passed the "Bottle Bill" to encourage consumers to recycle.
With fewer places to recycle cans, experts worry recycling efforts will drop. Before the closures, recycling rates of aluminum cans nationwide was already decreasing, according to RecyclingCenters.org. Back in 1994, recycling rates for aluminum cans hit 65 percent, but by 2010, rates dropped to 58 percent and have hovered around that mark ever since.
Now, experts fear that forcing consumers to travel longer distances to get their bottle deposit back from recycling centers could stop some people from recycling their cans altogether.
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State funding plan fails to help
California does provide subsidies to recycling centers to make up for the fluctuating prices of recycled goods, but there is a three-month lag time.
The gap in payment has caused recycling centers to be underpaid by an estimated $50 million over the course of the last four years, according to news reports.
A new way to be eco-conscious
As recycling centers close down, it's a reminder that more must be done to eliminate waste.
Recycling is helpful, but we live in a single serving society. Everything from water bottles to k-cups for your coffee maker are used once and thrown away.
While Americans have good intentions and plan to recycle, efforts often fall short. For instance, research shows 80 percent of what Americans throw away is recyclable, but just 33 percent of it makes it to recycling centers, according to Duke University.
Fortunately, there is an alternative answer: Refill.
Refilling reduces waste. Refilling bottles multiple times will cut costs to waste management, create jobs, and can ultimately reduce the price of the beverages purchased.
Right now, consumers often refill their water bottles which is a good start. But what if you could refill other things like your shampoo, soap, mouthwash or cleaning supplies?
This kind of technology already exists. Refill stations can be set up at retail stores that allow you to refill all kinds of personal hygiene products, cleaners, and much more.
By refilling bottles, there's no need to recycle. Consumers don't have to drive goods to recycling centers; they just take their empty bottle in to a retail store and refill it with their favorite brand of soap, perfume, or hand sanitizer.
Why haven't you seen these refill centers? Retailers are hesitant to install them, but you can help. Send your retailer a message. Tell them #WeWantRefill. Take a minute to sign the petition below and join the refill movement that could take some of the pressure off of recycling centers and landfills.