Recycling fraud running rampant in California

October 8, 2012

California instated the five cent recycling redemption law 25 years ago, and now fraudulent recycling is costing the state as much as $200 million a year.

Last year, consumers purchased 8.5 billion recyclable cans in California while 8.3 billion cans made their way to recycling centers [LA Times].

While recyclers redeemed cans at nearly a 100 percent rate, the recycling rate for certain plastic containers actually eclipsed 100 percent, reaching 104 percent.

Much of the recycling fraud can be attributed to drivers bringing the plastic bottles and containers into California from out-of-state. Neither Nevada, nor Arizona have recycling redemption programs.

Last summer the state Department of Food and Agriculture conducted a three-month investigation into vehicles driving into California with used beverage containers. CDFA discovered a total of 3,500 vehicles at 16 border stations, including 505 rental trucks filled to capacity with cans.

Government officials recently estimated $40 million a year of fraud in California’s recycling program, which has a $1.1 billion fund. The fund paid out $100 million more in expenses than it collected in revenue last year from fees on plastic products and other sources. An industry expert said the amount of fraud in the recycling fund could exceed $200 million.

In addition to recyclables arriving from out-of-state, fraud occurs rapidly instate when recycling centers distribute nickels for containers recycled several times over or for containers that do not even exist.

“The law says California has to make it easy to recycle,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Chapman told the LA Times. “So anyone with a devious mind, it’s so easy, they can just go right in.”

Not only do individuals with devious minds participate in the state recycling program, but illicit recycling rings have become common in and around the state. So much so that the Justice Department has a recycling fraud unit. In 2010, special recycling investigation agents busted an Arizona based ring for bringing in at least $189,000 worth of cans in a period of a few weeks. The investigation led to the owner of San Diego based Ace Recycling pleading guilty, along with several others, to grand theft and unlawful recycling.

Though California is one of 11 states that operate container redemption programs, it is one of only two in the region. Oregon has the only recycling redemption program geographically close to the state. Likewise, California is the only state besides Hawaii to administer the program through private recycling centers.

State officials say California recycling centers must abide by certain precautions, which include not buying more than 500 pounds of aluminum or 2,500 pounds of glass from one person in a given day.


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23 Comments

  1. Myself says:

    Anything the gooberment helps us with isn’t going to be free, it will cost you and I.
    We need to wake up and stop this waste of taxpayer dollars and the gubberment waste and fraud.

    (9) 15 Total Votes - 12 up - 3 down
  2. CommonSenseMama says:

    Just wondering… were all of these redeemed cans and bottles purchased this year?

    (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down
  3. eradicate ignorance says:

    When I think of hundreds of millions of dollars of nefarious activity, illicit recycling rings was the last thing that would come to mind. Go figure.

    (14) 14 Total Votes - 14 up - 0 down
    • Robert1 says:

      In a neighboring state the city officials could not figure out why a whole city block would go blackout in a couple of seconds. Then they caught the culprits opening electrical boxes hooking up the wires to the car bumper and driving away pulling hundreds of feet of copper wire out and scrapping it the next day, go figure…

      (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
      • SLOBIRD says:

        This is a very big problem in the major cities of California (Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Sacramento, etc.). It is one of the major crimes in the happening because of the economy.

        (-1) 9 Total Votes - 4 up - 5 down
        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          It’s not the economy, it’s the crooks.

          (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  4. Jeanne Blackwell says:

    Bill the State of origin the difference.

    (4) 12 Total Votes - 8 up - 4 down
    • The Gimlet Eye says:

      Better, get the government out of our hair.

      (3) 3 Total Votes - 3 up - 0 down
  5. racket says:

    Environmentalism is good business for crooks of all stripes.

    (20) 28 Total Votes - 24 up - 4 down
    • cch says:

      What a ridiculous statement. You could easily say the same about capitalism itself.

      (-15) 29 Total Votes - 7 up - 22 down
      • Slowerfaster says:

        “You could easily say the same about capitalism itself.”

        And with much more authority. The crooks always need their flower shops, olive oil importing businesses, and other false front cover stories to transfer the profits to.

        (-8) 14 Total Votes - 3 up - 11 down
  6. Cindy says:

    It is us consumers that pay the redemption fee for every recyclable item we purchase. Then we are asked to pay someone like “Waste Management” to pick up the items for us that we have separated for them into a special trash can (they charge us for that!) Then they collect the fees that we paid for the items from the “gubmint”. In the mean time, we have people coming in from out of state cashing in on all those nickels that we have paid with their own recyclables that no one ever paid the fee on. Great just great, typical gubmint at it’s finest and we all get ripped off again.

    Has anyone noticed the ridiculous fees charged to purchase packaged electronics ? I was charged something like an $8.00 extra fee for a box that my monitor was packaged in. I was so angry when there was an extra $8.00 added to the cost of the monitor that I told them (Best Buy in SLO) that I would take the monitor out of it’s packaging and they could keep the box. Yeah fat chance that they would agree to that.

    There is a lot of money being made by somebody for this recycling and it’s all at the cost of us consumers without a penny coming back to us for it.

    (11) 29 Total Votes - 20 up - 9 down
    • californiagold says:

      “I was charged something like an $8.00 extra fee for a box that my monitor was packaged in. I was so angry when there was an extra $8.00 added to the cost of the monitor that I told them (Best Buy in SLO) that I would take the monitor out of it’s packaging and they could keep the box.”

      The fee wasn’t for the box. The fee is tied to the screen size (not the box) of the electronic device. It is called an Electronic Waste Recycling Fee and has been collected on certain electronic devices since 2005. Here is the CalRecycle website: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Electronics/Act2003/Retailer/Fee/

      (19) 21 Total Votes - 20 up - 1 down
      • Cindy says:

        Thanks, The employee at Best Buy who cashed me out said it was for the cardboard! I was furious as I know cardboard is recyclable. The thing is, even if it was for an electronic recycling fee, I pay those fee’s when I bring my electronics to the dump, don’t we all?

        (12) 16 Total Votes - 14 up - 2 down
        • californiagold says:

          If you recycle electronics at the household haz waste places (and each landfill in SLO has one of those haz waste drop off laces) you don’t pay anything: it’s free. I know because that’s where we have been taking electronics for years now.

          With the amount of electronic devices Best Buy sells one would think their store employees would be able to explain the electronic recycling fee is for the electronic item and not the cardboard box. Telling me to pay $8 for a cardboard box would have gotten under my skin too Cindy!

          (8) 10 Total Votes - 9 up - 1 down
          • Cindy says:

            “If you recycle electronics at the household haz waste places (and each landfill in SLO has one of those haz waste drop off laces) you don’t pay anything: it’s free.”

            WHATTTTTTTT? It’s Free ! I have a handy man who I asked to dump a load of old electronics for me several months ago. He said it was going to cost about $50.00 in fee’s because he had to take it to the haz waste place. As far as I know, it went to the haz waste place in/near A-Town where our N county landfill is. I’m going to check and see if it’s free here. I know the dump charges fees so I never thought twice that electronics might cost a lot more. WOW, it’s free? Somebody owes me $50.00 and I know who it is this time. Thanks again, that’s twice today.

            (7) 7 Total Votes - 7 up - 0 down
            • danika says:

              Cindy,

              Heilman’s salvage use to take the electronic “waste” but I am not sure they still do. But nothing is free. It costs $25 to dump off a microwave.

              (6) 8 Total Votes - 7 up - 1 down
              • californiagold says:

                For some odd reason the State of California figured that microwaves are special and now we can’t take microwaves out to the dump for free disposal at the haz waste place. Not sure who will take them. But I tried taking an old microwave along with a TV to the haz waste place at the dump and could not drop off the microwave at all–period. Took it back home and found someone who could use it so I gave it away.

                (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
            • californiagold says:

              They are Household Hazardous Waste locations– for private households. For the individual household citizen to drop off their old TV it’s free. ;-)

              Businesses, including the handyman you described, are charged when they show up with a load of hazardous waste. According to the rules businesses are deemed to be what is called a small quantity generator and they can’t drop off for free like the individual citizen like you and me who will take over an old TV.

              Even though it’s for households, these small businesses can also use the individual haz waste drop off location, but they have different requirements. If you hire a handyman to drop off electronics for you, he will be charged and will pass the cost on to his customer (you), plus add something in for his/her time, fuel costs, and profit. If you want to save yourself $50 then don’t pay someone to haul it off for you.

              Hope this helps.

              (6) 6 Total Votes - 6 up - 0 down
              • OnTheOtherHand says:

                Thanks for the information cal-gold. I learned this the hard way supplementing my income doing some handyman work and have found that many people have no idea how expensive a trip to the dump is.

                (0) 2 Total Votes - 1 up - 1 down
    • cch says:

      Is there some reason you’re not able to take your recyclables to a recycling center yourself and get paid on the spot?

      (5) 7 Total Votes - 6 up - 1 down

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