TWENTYNINE PALMS — Declines in state fees and the recycling market will leave residents here with one less place to take their recycling.

The company rePlanet, which ran recycling facilities outside the Stater Bros. markets here and in Yucca Valley, closed all of its 284 centers and fired its entire workforce Monday, Aug. 5, according to a statement issued by the company.

The only recycling center open in the Morongo Basin is Venture Recycling Group at 7308 Hopi Trail in Yucca Valley. For information, call (760) 228-0808.

The corporation blamed the dwindling international market for recyclable trash and state raises in minimum wage and insurance requirements.

“With the continued reduction in state fees, the depressed pricing of recycled aluminum and PET plastic and the rise in operating costs resulting from minimum wage increases and required health and workers compensation insurance, the company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable,” the statement reads.

“We regret that these site closures will negatively impact our employees, grocer partners, customers and the recycling community at large.”

Consumers in wealthier nations like the U.S. may put their plastic into recycling bins, but their countries send billions of tons of the plastic trash to Asian nations.

The international market for plastic trash began to tank in 2018 when China, which previously took 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste imports, stopped taking any.

Since then, payments to recycling companies in the U.S. have dipped.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that studies recycling in California, warns there are serious problems with the state’s recycling industry.

In the last five years, more than 40 percent of all redemption centers have closed, Consumer Watchdog said.

Because of that, Californians only get about half of their bottle and can deposits back each year, despite paying $1.5 billion in 2018.

In the wake of rePlanet’s shutdown, Consumer Watchdog called for the state to immediately require every grocery and convenience store chain to begin redeeming bottles and cans.

“We warned just months ago that the bottle deposit program was in crisis and today’s closure shows consumers are being left in the lurch by the failure of the state to keep recycling centers open,” said consumer advocate Liza Tucker.

Consumer Watchdog and the Container Recycling Institute both say the state severely underpays redemption centers in the face of plummeting prices for aluminum and plastic.

One major reason for the closures is that the formula for calculating state payments to centers is fatally flawed, said Tucker.

The state recycling regulator, CalRecycle, averages the costs to run centers across the state, but operating centers in grocery store parking lots like rePlanet did generally costs more.

“As payments shrink over time, centers fall into a death spiral and cannot afford to stay afloat in a brutal commodities market,” Consumer Watchdog said.

RePlanet had other problems. A truck driver, Salvador Garcia, 61, was crushed to death by an earth mover at the company’s Rancho Cucamonga plant in 2013. The company was charged with willfully violating worker safety rules.

RePlanet agreed to pay $500,000 to the victim’s family and $251,000 in fines.

(11) comments

Monk

Raising the minimum wage leads to loss of jobs. Who knew?

TwoToeJoe

CalRecycle's stated vision is to create efficient programs that improves economic vitality and build a stronger California. It is sad to see that these so called "sustainable green jobs" face the same sad reality that any business is faced with when subjected to the same increased minimum wage mandates and rising cost of workers compensation and health insurance premiums. CalRecycle and the California legislature knew in February this was going to happen and did nothing. Word has it that to solve the problem of the bottle deposit program the California legislature is proposing that the deposits are going to be doubled. That is what is going to happen when the "New Green Deal" proposals are instituted upon our nation.

sweetbtty

Minimum wage increases do not led to loss of jobs- it's poorly ran businesses such as RePlanet recycling. Washington State implemented a $15 an hour minimum wage and the daily mantra of "Jobs will shut down and lose money!" quickly died when businesses still flourished and cost of living became more sufficient to higher rents and food costs. And there are at least one other recycling center in Landers...

TwoToeJoe

Washington State minimum wage is $12 an hour not $15. If that fact can not be honestly established maybe the claims of a poorly ran business are as false. Higher wages contribute towards increased cost of living such as rent and food as common sense dictates. Try living in Silicon Valley!

Storey

Sweetbtty falsely claimed $15 per hour wage in Washington state didn't destroy jobs. I assume they meant Seattle and don't quite know the facts. But Seattle did commission a study by the University of Washington which reported that the higher minimum wage lowered total salaries for most workers because of reduced hours. The first study when the minimum changed slightly showed little impact but one year later the impact was much bigger and much more destructive.

Branson Hunter

Profits, stingy business owners or some corporation dislike paying a mere $15 an hour to someone working to survive. Working people and families are the first priority. Happy working people are more productive than those being paid a sham wage of less that $15. I have argued in labor wage negotiations that if a corporation is unable to pay the perception of an honest wage, the business is failing and maybe should be discontinued. Anyone disagree?

TwoToeJoe

The State of California mandated the $15 dollar an hour minimum wage along with required health and workers compensation insurance for rePlanet which made that business unsustainable. No business can operate successfully without profits period. Thus that business can no longer conduct business and closed down leaving 750 employees unemployed. Maybe some of those employees are happy and while most are probably unhappy. Perhaps some of those working people and families who rely on and use our local recycling centers are happy. Perhaps many are unhappy when they have to seek a recycling center further away that does not have to comply with the State mandated $15 dollars an hour along with the additional insurance requirements. I am sure Venture Recycling Group is now profiting and taking advantage of our local rePlanet closures while still paying the supposed sham wages. Anyone who professes to have argued in labor wage negotiations would know that if the cost of wages and employee benefits go beyond the profitability margin a business will eventually go belly up and the jobs which produces the products and services will cease to exist. Anyone who professes to be an expert in labor wage negotiations would know that honest wages and minimum wages are two separate entities. Happy working people are more productive and much better off when employed in exciting and expanding career fields that pay honest wages and benefits not dead end minimum wage jobs such as those employed collecting recycled cans and bottles. Most people are just not that ignorant.

Branson Hunter

Two Toes, your comment turned from wages to recycling... Recycling has surmountable problems. The bigger picture is world-wide unsustainable consumerism and obsolescence build into consumer goods. Plastics, microplastics and nanoplastics have reached every part of our celestial planet. We eat it. We drink it. The president walked out on the G7 conference concerning planetary- environmental matters. Thanks for your comment.

Branson Hunter

Two Toes, the recycling industry is in turmoil. Labor is always a begrudging expense for corporations and businesses. That's the way it goes. "An honest day's work for an honest day's pay" is still as American as Norman Rockwell. I would never begrudge anyone for making a lousy 15 bucks an hour. Your hour's pay is your life. You offer your life in time for pay. Anything less is taking advantage of people that work for a living.

TwoToeJoe

Plastics may be a consumable Branson but I am reasonably assured we do not eat it nor drink it as you claimed. Only the twisted mind of a liberal Social Justice Warrior loaded with the Marxist doctrine would think of something like mandating a $15 dollar minimum wage with insurance benefits upon businesses that hires low skilled, no experience necessary job market entry level employment positions. That sad mentality made rePlanet a loser, made the employees a loser, and made the people who relied on the local recycler center for deposit refunds the biggest loser. We should all rejoice and be happy now. We all should look forward for the day when those socialist pipedreams are instituted nationwide!

Branson Hunter

Bye, Two toes.

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