California recycling centers form new trade group in fight for survival
- Recycling centers that process containers through the California Redemption Value (CRV) program have banded together in a first-of-its-kind new trade association called Protect CRV (PCRV).
- "There hasn't been a traditional trade association for this segment of industry up until now, and they have been missing it," Executive Director Jenna Abbott told Waste Dive. "Decisions are being made without the input of the people who are going to be affected."
- It can be hard for the small business owners that operate these recycling centers to take time off for advocacy, according to PCRV, at a time when their industry is changing rapidly. An estimated 900 recycling centers have closed since 2013, and PCRV estimates around 1,700 remain.
PCRV's founding board includes executives from Ming's Recycling, rePlanet and Recycling Zone, along with Abbott (formerly of the California Resource Recovery Association). The group currently has more than 50 member companies and is actively looking to expand its reach.
This new 501(c)(4) sprung out of a feeling that recycling center operators had no clear place in other industry trade associations when they may need it most. Due to a variety of factors, California's container redemption program has been in crisis for years and no easy solution is in sight to help turn the tide.
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) has been engaged in these discussions, and the state legislature did pass a law to create five pilot redemption programs in more densely populated areas by 2020, but more systemic change is still seen as necessary.
According to a recent CalRecycle report, handling fee payments are expected to decline by 14% in the upcoming fiscal year. That estimated $4.8 million will have big effects on centers that are already struggling with higher labor costs based on a recent PCRV survey.
Community relations are also seen as a key issue, especially as local governments look to pass ordinances that may limit or shutter some of these recycling centers. One such law passed by the Fresno City Council was recently invalidated by a county judge, though the negative sentiment remains in many areas.
While some view these centers as an eyesore, another PCRV survey also found that more than one-third of consumer respondents rely in part on the income they receive from redeeming containers. This is expected to be a key message as the group launches.
"Consumers pay their CRV when they buy their beverages and every consumer should have the right to get that CRV deposit back," said Abbott.
By helping recycling center operators stay up to date on the best ways to interact with their communities, as well as crack down on issues such as container fraud, PCRV thinks it can begin to change the sector's image.
Whether that could also eventually entail advocacy around broader bottle bill legislation, or expansion to other states with redemption programs, remains to be seen. Abbott said that while she does see potential for national growth, California is currently "where our pain point is and this is where our members are."
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