Recycling center closures cost communities millions each year

August 10, 2016

Mayor Tom O’Malley


Throughout San Luis Obispo County, numerous recycling centers have closed leaving some local communities without a place to redeem their beverage deposits. These closures have cost local businesses and residents millions of dollars.

California charges a fee for most beverage containers with a mandated minimum refund value of 5 cents to 10 cents a bottle. It’s a way to encourage recycling. Each store that sells recyclable beverage containers is required to accept recyclables, or have a recycling center nearby or pay CalRecycle $36,500 a year.

In the past, local communities were served by either recycling companies or through contracts with their garbage collection company.

However, as the price of commodities including glass and scrap metal has dropped, many recycling companies have closed. In addition, several local trash collection companies have shuttered their recycling centers.

On Jan. 30, Atascadero Waste Alternatives closed its recycling buy-back center on San Luis Avenue. The shutdown occurred after the city council voted in a contract that permitted its solid waste provider to discontinue operating the buy-back center which usually paid between $2,000 and $4,000 a day to people bringing in their recyclables.

As a result of the buy-back center shutdown, residents of Atascadero no longer collect the more than $800,000 paid out yearly for recyclables. In addition, dozens of local businesses are now required to pay the $36,500 yearly fee to the state further reducing local revenues.

The closure of Atascadero’s buy-back center could have been prevented.Recycle center

In early 2014, the Atascadero City Council discussed opening up the bidding process for a six-year garbage collection contract to run from Jan. 1, 2015 through Dec. 31, 2020. The city’s contracted hauler at the time, Atascadero Waste Alternatives, and Mid-State Solid Waste and Recycling were both interested in bidding for the contract.

At the time, Atascadero Waste Connections was charging Atascadero residents the highest rate for commercial collection and the fourth highest rate for residential curbside collection of 13 local municipalities, an Atascadero staff report showed.

California law allows for municipalities to enter into contracts with solid waste companies for curbside collection without going through the bidding process.

At a council meeting on April, 8, 2014, Mid-State Solid Waste and Recycling owner Brad Goodrow asked the council to allow him to bid on the garbage contract. Goodrow said his company would provide each resident a yard of compost, agree to operate the buy-back center and would provide curbside collection at a 10 percent savings for the residents.

Mid-State Solid Waste and Recycling provides curbside collection for Templeton and the unincorporated areas of Santa Margarita and Creston. It also operates North County Recycling and North County Composts.

But the Atascadero City Council voted 3-2 to give a non-bid contract to Atascadero Waste Alternatives for curbside collection, with council members Bob Kelley and Brian Sturtevant dissenting.

Mayor Tom O’Malley argued in favor of continuing to give non-bid contacts to Atascadero Waste Connections. O”Malley failed to inform the other council members that Atascadero Waste Alternatives had paid to sponsor several events O’Malley hosted in Atascadero, according to fliers for the events.

At a city council meeting a few months later, Sturtevant joined Mayor Tom O’Malley and Council Member Heather Moreno in voting to approve a contract for Atascadero Waste Connections that did not require the company keep the buy-back center open. Both Kelley and Council member Roberta Fonzi voted no.

A year later, in Aug. 2015, Atascadero Waste Alternatives demanded three rate increases over three years in order to keep the buy-back center open, according to an Aug. 11, 2015 staff report.

“Atascadero Waste Alternatives has further indicated that in order to keep the buy-back center open, they need to offset this net loss with $6,500 per month in additional revenue to meet profit expectations of its shareholders,” the staff report said.

Nevertheless, state law mandates that stores that do over $2 million a year in gross sales and sell bottled drinks either have on-site recycling facilities or be within a half mile of one. If not, they are required to either accept recyclables themselves or pay a $100-a-day fee.

Members of the grocery industry say it is unsanitary to accept recyclables at store counters and they have no place to store the bottles. They have pleaded with Sacramento for assistance as a fifth of all recycling centers in California have closed. The state provides subsidies for recycling centers.

However, the subsidies aren’t adjusted quickly enough to reflect changing market conditions and the state is late with payments. CalRecycle bases subsidies on a 12-month average of scrap value from a previous year, which does not keep up with real-time changes in scrap value prices, according to a report from the nonprofit Container Recycling Institute.

A recently released state report says that 450 recycling centers closed last year. While state legislators are currently looking into the issue, no solutions have been agreed on.

Meanwhile, the state is profiting on the closures as it continues to collect bottle deposits, no longer subsidizes hundreds of recycling centers, and receives $100 a day from thousands of businesses that sell beverages without having a recycling center nearby.

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Gotta love the Democrat-controlled government in Calif. Pretending to be in favor of the environment, but encouraging this bad behavior.

This epitomizes my disgust with people in positions of power. This is an obvious problem. Why aren’t all our leaders rushing to fix it or get rid of it? I try to be positive, but this is simply bad leadership no matter how you look at it.

Another state unfunded boondoggle, which has shown itself to be ineffective and a complete waste of time and money.

We all pay the fee regardless whether any recycling is ever done, we all want to do the right thing about recycling, we all trusted our politicos to do what they say they would, we all know this is a crock.

Yet here we are buying drinks with a substantial fee added which we had a reasonable expectation that those fees would be going to the program it was intended to go to and that it was working.

Where did it go wrong? The state, the county and the cities are all to blame for rushing to judgement on the environment, not obeying financial contracts signed, not listening to their constituants, doing only what moves their political carreeers forward, and yet they knew had no intention of obeying their own mandate.

Time to vote everyone…

Based on the writings here, it appears that none of the people posting ever visit other states.

Maine requires that a seller of products in recyclables must have the facilities to take back the cans/bottles and refund THE FULL AMOUNT of the deposit.

Massachusetts does the same thing.

Oregon was doing this as well, last I heard.

All the whinging and whining about how the gubbermint is ripping us off is pathetically ridiculous. Are you people really that ignorant?

When there was no deposit on the containers, they were littered about the landscape everywhere. A refundable deposit doesn’t stop that childish behavior. It does allow the less fortunate among us a financial incentive to clean up after the piggy pinheads that litter. In the states that have decent rules about where and how to return the containers, you don’t generally see a lot of refundable containers littering the landscape. They get picked up and returned for refund.

What actually happened with the California laws is that the special interests, IE, the retailers that sell the products sold in refundable containers, used their political muscle to weaken/dumb down the laws so that they could evade the requirements to redeem the containers at full value. Be angry with the retailers for gaming the system.

In other words, if you really understood what the laws are, in California and elsewhere, and how they came to be written as they are now are now, you wouldn’t spew bullshit about the gubbermint screwing us.

Unfortunately, deliberate ignorance it the defining characteristic of a great many people these days. Faux Spews is their favorite TV network.

1smartdude, last I checked we had elections, elected people to serve and look after the welfare of its people and hopefully, do the right thing for the people in imposing laws and order..

So you want to blame the businesses, that hire lobbyist to put money into the pockets of the politicians and then you want to blame the businesses. No politician had to take the money, they didn’t have to “protect” the businesses or had to screw the public, day in and day out.

This is just plain and simple the government politicians all on levels looking out for themselves and to hell with the people. TOM O’MALLEY is obviously on the working the system to his benefit and to hell with the people.


Bottom line is OMalley is a clown and all the spin you are trying cannot erase the truth. Your claims of everyone being ignorant points the finger right back at ya.

Californian’s and American’s in general not only don’t visit other states, They don’t visit other countries. It apparent in their continual objection to recycling, reusable shopping bags, natural resource conservation, sustainable practices of all types, things other countries and states have been doing for decades.

So, you’re angry that someone else’s special interest group paid your politicians more than your special interest group paid. Then, your politicians became their politicians. Bet you don’t complain when your special interest group pays the politicians the most and then you get your way. The real problem isn’t recycling. The real problem is that everybody’s politicians are for sale.

The retailers do not retain the deposit money. It is turned over to the state. The money is paid by the state when/if redeemed. The state gets all the money for the un-redeemed stuff that goes to the landfill. The supermarkets get nothing but an unfunded mandate to get into the waste disposal business. $36,500/yr ($36,600 in leap years) in fines is the cheapest option from a business point of view. Whoever doesn’t pay gets to be the new homeless center. The difference between the happy model of reducing litter begun in Maine and Oregon decades ago and the today’s reality of funding alcohol and drug abuse by the homeless who refuse sober services, loot my blue bin and raise my waste disposal rates is, huge. The analogy that this is an economic impact like losing a major employer is ludicrous.

Once again, thanks Tom O’Malley and the others for having the residents of Atascadero in mind when you let waste alternatives close the recycling center. Thanks to you, those of us who do recycle have to travel to other cities to get rid of the cans/glass/plastic. But that’s ok, while I visit other cities like Paso Robles, I do my shopping there too, so you see, more money leaves Atascadero because of your stupidity.

Lets see if I get this straight, the state extorts money from the grocery stores for a redemption fee,that would be my money when I purchase at the check out stand, then the state extorts more money from the grocery store if there isn’t a recycling center nearby, but the state expects the recycling center to pay the consumer back on scrap price,not the money the state extorted from me to start with, and then the state hi grades the redemption monies form this “fund” and doesn’t pay it back,this is a backhanded tax that we are forced to pay.

What a bunch of crap.

The Government learned from the mob….there is money in garbage….

It is the responsibility of the grocery stores to provide a place or pay a fine. Often they have a deal with a host store and the other stores pay to offset costs. This recycling area stinks just like a garbage facility would. After Smart and Final relocated, SLO’s new one is at Von’s, a few miles from downtown (wink, wink). The less “business” the less cost. I’m happy just to have mixed curbside recycling, very labor intensive and unknown even today in most of SoCal. The way this works is that you are required to pay the difference between the cost of operations, plus “shareholder expectations”, and the cost recovered through state redemption in the form of higher rates. I do not believe the city should agree to a rate increase for the purpose of enabling early a.m. raids of waste containers with the resulting noise and a mess. Why don’t we have a redemption value on a spaghetti sauce can? This aside, the argument made in the article is that local business and government is missing out on revenue. I would argue that the culture that is supported by trash-can raiding revenue does not recover costs for business or, especially, LOCAL government. Let the state deal with state regulations

Straw man argument. The issue is that the services was offered for less but crooked OMalley and two dim bulbs chose another route

Your argument of trash can raiding is NOT supported

It’s supported each and every Tuesday morning at my house.

I don’t know what is worst:


“… O”Malley failed to inform the other council members that Atascadero Waste Alternatives had paid to sponsor several events O’Malley hosted in Atascadero, according to fliers for the events.” This is called pay-to-play and we seem to have of this going on in our cirrupted government lately.

The local businesses should make the City pay the damn extra fees thanks to the crony actions of CROOKED TOM O’MALLEY – AGAIN, and the ATASCADERO WASTE ALTERNATIVES. O’MALLEY sold out the Community and local businesses. How much of this corrupt Mayor are we going to continue to tolerate?


The whole issue of recycling has been a scam from the beginning. First, it was 5cent and slowly it has climbed to 10cent and no one has said a word. They will be doing the same thing with the damn shopping bags pretty soon. During the recession in California the entire recycling fund was raided by our Governor (like several other funds) and has never been paid back. Me, I am just throwing my in the garbage because I am not willing to give away my recycling to anyone for free. Load up the dump trucks and the dump site, I don’t care. Why recycle knowing I am being duped by the system. I normally have more recycling and have always cashed in the bottles/cans but I will not be scammed by my government so I will protest by tossing them in the trash. You are stealing my money.


Well said, SLOBIRD. Tom O’Malley lost my respect years ago.

Bob Kelley (Atasc.) and Jim Reed (Paso) seem to be the only North County councilmen with any integrity, common sense or brains!

Unfortunately Bob Kelley announced yesterday he is not going to run again.. I think he too has probably had enough!

and the same thinking is running our healthcare insurance……YIKES!

Actually the 500 million dollar loan from the Beverage fund was completely paid back several years ago.

Throwing away your containers just means the state gets to keep your nickles and dimes in the fund. If that is how you choose to protest then more power to you. Can’t think of a more useless activity.

The beverage container fund is a victim of its own success. It was not designed to operate at recycling levels over 80%. As beverage container recycling is in the high 80s it is running at a deficit. However the more people that throw away beverage containers in the trash the better for the health of the fund.

Sp a; the extra $36,500 fees are not going to the California Recycle fund. They should be making a killing one this and of course, another rip for the consumer. We are so screwed by our own government so it doesn’t make any difference what we do, we get screwed, so why even bother. Dump those cans and bottles in the garbage!

Simply refuse to pay the redemption fee at the checkstand. If the store can direct you to a place to recover the deposit, fine. If not, they have no right to collect it.

I’m going to try this next time I shop, wish me luck :)

Good Luck!

Let us know!

Be sure to tell all of the sovereign citizens to go do that.

Please post the videos.