California’s largest recycler, rePlanet, has closed more than one-third of its recycling centers throughout the state and laid off about 25 percent of its employees because of falling commodities prices and rising operating costs.
rePlanet says at the end of last month it closed 191 recycling centers and laid off 278 employees.
“Following the most recent reduction in state fees on Jan. 1, 2016 and after enduring 12 months of unprecedented declines in commodities pricing of aluminum and PET plastic, coupled with the mandated rise in operating costs as a result of minimum wage increases and required health and workers compensation insurance, the company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers is no longer sustainable,” rePlanet said in a statement.
The company says the move will allow its remaining 800 employees and 350 recycling centers to continue providing recycling services “as long as current conditions remain unchanged … If and when the state makes the necessary changes that allow us to operate profitably, we welcome the opportunity to reopen as many recycling centers as possible.”
rePlanet says it has had several meetings with CalRecycle to resolve issues surrounding the state’s beverage container recycling fund, which is “critical” to rePlanet’s recycling program success.
The recycling fund collects deposits paid for bottles and other covered containers and then pays out when bottles get redeemed. But it relies on bottles not being redeemed because the surplus funds pay for statewide recycling programs, among other initiatives. Because bottles are recycled at such a high rate, recycling programs are receiving less money from the fund to support their operations.
“With this tremendous reduction in the price of oil, it’s made virgin plastic, which is made out of petroleum product much more competitive with recycled plastic, and that’s caused the decline in the market value of recycled plastic,” CalRecycle’s Mark Oldfield said.
Last week Best Buy changed its in-store e-waste recycling program, charging customers $25 for each TV and computer monitor they recycle at its stores, because it is losing money on the program.