RePlanet Recycling, the largest chain of recycling centers in California, shut down the remainder of its 284 locations Aug. 26, laying off almost 750 employees.
Increased business costs have made it impossible to maintain the recycling centers as the prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastic have gone down with little to no profit.
Fren Garcia, assistant manager at Etiwanda Recycling Inc., said that although a huge corporation in recycling has closed down, there is still hope for the remaining recycling companies.
“We have been having a lot more customers come in but with less amount of bottles,” Garcia said. “Though, if prices do continue to go down for recycling, then there would be nothing we could profit off of and more recycling places would have to close down.”
Garcia said since the recycling centers are less accessible, she cannot be sure if there could be a consistent business in recycling.
“I hope this is not the case,” Garcia said. “I continue to worry about this and I hope that we do not lose the business.”
According to research done by Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit organization that studies California’s recycling companies, about 40 percent of recycling centers have closed in the last five years.
Because of this, those who recycle are only getting half of their nickel and dime deposits on bottles and cans. This leads to more bottles made of aluminum, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, in landfills as a result of consumers simply throwing recyclables away or leaving them in contaminated recycling bins.
The lack of recycling centers in California have also inconvenienced some of the homeless population since recycling is often their only source of income.
Eva Jordan, senior political science major, is an employee at Costco and said she has noticed more people recycling at Costco since the change.
“People who would normally go to recycling centers have now come to Costco to recycle,” Jordan said. “The homeless population has grown around the store because many homeless use recycling as a source of income.”
Bottles and aluminum become more contaminated from curbside recycling bins or garbage cans, which have to be relinquished and go to landfills instead of having the opportunity of being reused.
Kahokualohilani Chong, junior biomedical science major, said she did not realize how much she relied on the rePlanet recycling centers.
“A few days ago I went to recycle at Stater Bros, and noticed they were closed even though their operation hours said they were supposed to be open,” Chong said.
“I went to another Stater Bros after (that experience) and they were closed too. After that I Googled what was going on and was so shocked,” Chong said.
Chong also emphasized the importance of recycling.
“As a college student I recycle, so seeing these places close down and knowing there is less money for these centers is concerning because we need them,” Chong said. “Not only for a student’s benefit or even simple consumers, but some homeless even rely on recycling (for income) and it does not seem as accessible as it was.”
Los Angeles County alone generated approximately 30 million tons of waste in 2018.
Deitrik Ito, junior graphic design major, said recycling centers becoming obsolete is disappointing because of the constant importance they held in previous years.
“I hope that in the near future our community can find alternatives to recycling and other waste management,” Ito said. “It is starting to become more important for us to preserve the earth we live on becasue of global warming and pollution.”
The council last year proposed legislation to require reusable plastic, to be fully recyclable or compostable by 2030.
For those who wish to be responsible with their plastic use, it is best to change purchase habits and lessen the amount of plastic circulating. This means identifying whether the bottles they use are recyclable and avoiding single-use containers.