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As RePlanet Closes, We Check In On The State Of Recycling And Reusables In California

A RePlanet bottle and can redemption center in California.
A RePlanet bottle and can redemption center in California.

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California’s largest operator of recycling redemption centers has shut down and laid off 750 employees.

The Mercury News reported Monday that the company, Ontario-based RePlanet, has closed all 284 of its centers.

RePlanet President David Lawrence said the company stopped operating because of increased business costs and falling prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastic.

This leaves fewer options for people to redeem their recyclables, which is especially concerning for those who live in poverty or experience homelessness and rely on recycling for income.

The closures also mean more bottles made of aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, will end up in landfills. People will either throw their recyclables directly into the garbage or place them in curbside recycling bins, which are often filled with contaminated material that must be discarded. This comes against the backdrop of China, which has bought much of the U.S.’s recyclable material, becoming stricter about what kinds of material it will accept.

Meanwhile, cities like San Francisco and Berkeley have been pushing reusables, and earlier this year, California lawmakers proposed legislation that would require plastic and other single-use materials sold in the state to be either reusable, fully recyclable or compostable by 2030. The bill, AB 1080, passed the state Assembly and is under consideration in the Senate.

We get the 101 on why RePlanet closed its doors and what it means for recycling in California. And what efforts are being made to push recyclables and how are restaurants are faring under new constraints? If you are a restaurant owner, what do you think of the push for reusables? As a consumer, would you be willing to bring your own cup to a restaurant or cafe? 

With files from the Associated Press

With guest host Libby Denkmann


Pete Keller, vice president of recycling and sustainability at Republic Services, which is one of the country’s largest waste and recycling companies; they are headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona and they have operations in Northern and Southern California

Martin Bourque, executive director of the Ecology Center in the city of Berkeley, a non-profit that advocates for various issues related to health and environmental impact of urban residents