Local Governments Start Recycling, Environmentalists Halt

Just kidding!  Happy April Fools 2012 :-)

Facing a never-ending shortage of funds for local initiatives, several city governments in California have started turning in cans to make a few extra bucks.

Specifically, the recycling materials in question are plastic and glass beverage containers, as well as aluminium cans associated with CRV (California Redemption Value). At the point of purchase, the State of California takes 5 or 10 cents for each container (contingent upon the container being lesser or greater than 24 ounces). The consumer can then redeem used beverage containers at CRV recycling centers to receive a refund.  If CRV funds are not redeemed, the remaining funds rollover to the State Treasury, either used to run the CRV program, or to be appropriated by the state’s legislature.

Local governments in California seeking ways to balance their budgets are looking to CRV to solve their budget woes. In order to recoup what would have been thrown away (both monetarily and materially), they have begun mass recycling of CRV beverage containers at the local level.  It started in major metropolitan areas, like San Francisco and Los Angeles, but has spread to smaller population centers, such as the Salinas Valley and Eureka.

Positive action, negative consequences
At first, environmentalists rejoiced, thinking their efforts have finally paid off. Waste was being diverted from landfills.  Resources were being used and reused. And some local government budgets were approaching balanced budgets for the first time since the great recession.

Ironically, the sudden onslaught of CRV recycling threatened to bankrupt the CRV program. With nearly 100% of CRV containers projected to be recycled, there were not enough funds to both provide a refund and run the program.  Furthermore, many other state governmental programs that count on funding derived from CRV recycling are expected to go unfunded, although local governmental programs are fully funded.

In response to the projections, some environmental groups are calling for environmentalists to collectively and consciously make an effort to stop recycling, in hopes of keeping the CRV recycling program afloat. Can they save it?

Image Credit: Jonathan Mariano

Jonathan Mariano is an MBA candidate with the Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco, CA. His interests include the convergence between lean & green and pursuing free-market based sustainable solutions.