PASO ROBLES — Recycling in North County just became more difficult with the closing of rePlanet in Paso Robles on Aug. 5.
On Sunday, Aug.4, several posts on social media circulated that local rePlanet locations in Paso Robles were closing and people who brought their recyclables just barely made as the locations final customers, while others were turned away.
The California company based in Ontario, rePlanet filed for bankruptcy Monday, Aug. 5, and closed all 284 of its centers in California and terminated its workforce of over 750 employees.
“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,” read a rePlanet statement on Aug. 6. It added that rePlanet was filing for Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors (ABC) and for its remaining assets to be liquidated.
“We regret that these site closures will negatively impact our employees, grocer partners, customer and the recycling community at large. We thank our employees for their hard work and dedication in providing convenient recycling opportunities to our valued customers across the State of California,” the statement added.
On Aug. 7, rePlanet shut all the doors to the remaining centers and offices. There was no one to answer the phones for any comment. A final Facebook post said, “We thank all of our employees and customers who have partnered with us through the years. Thank you for helping us make an impact for the planet.”
This comes almost a month after Freemont Democrat Sen. Bob Wieckowski's SB 168 was approved in July by the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee. The bill would establish minimum levels of recycled content for use in the manufacture of all beverage containers by 2021.
The rePlanet closure comes three years after it announced that it had to close 191 of its recycling centers and lay off 278 employees throughout the State of California in February of 2016.
rePlanet stated the reasons why the layoffs occurred in 2016, "Following the most recent reduction in State fees on Jan. 1, 2016 and after enduring twelve 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."
The newest closures and layoffs come after China has become much stricter in taking in imports of American recyclables and what they will take regarding levels of contaminated product. This led to an increase in blue bin recycling rates for customers in some areas as well as a stockpile for most waste management companies waiting to export recyclables to China.
Concerns now loom over what will happen to recyclable content. Will it just go into landfills or will CalRecycle, (California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery) step in and have grocery stores take in more cans and bottles in for redemption?
rePlanet did post a final call to action on their Facebook page, “If you have questions or concerns about the CRV program and next steps are, we recommend contacting your state legislator to advocate for better recycling initiatives and improved legislation.”
Currently, grocery stores can take 50 bottles or cans for the .5 cent redemption each, for a total of $2.50. Unfortunately, that is not a solution for most who recycle, many live near or in poverty. At-risk populations, such as seniors or homeless individuals rely on the income that comes from collecting cans.
Residents of Atascadero lost their recycling location a little over three years ago when Waste Management’s Mid-State recycling buyback center on 7625 San Luis Ave. closed its doors on Jan. 30, 2016. Since then many have been waiting and hoping for a new local location to open. Many Atascaderans have been driving to Paso Robles to redeem their aluminum and plastic at the rePlanet centers.
Now the last remaining locations in the area to take a larger amount of CRV material is Paso Robles’ A-1 Metals & Auto Salvage located at 5795 Stockdale Rd. open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. A-1 Metals & Auto Salvage can be reached at 805- 238-3545.
The other location is the Santa Maria Buyback Center at 1850 W. Betteravia Rd. open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. You can reach them at 805-922-9092 or call them at Waste Management’s customer service center at 805-922-2121.