MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX) – California’s largest recycling business is shuttering all of its redemption sites, leaving residents who recycle for a living with fewer places to go.
All 284 RePlanet centers in Contra Costa, San Francisco and Santa Clara counties are closing their doors, putting hundreds of employees out their jobs.
At the RePlanet center in Mountain View, people were dropping off plenty of waste at a place that is not going to reopen, a victim of a recycling economy that has been struggling for years.
“I thought the guy was on his break because usually he takes his break at one,” said Albert, who showed up at another closed recycling center in Sunnyvale.
From Sunnyvale to Mountain View to San Francisco, residents showed up with their bottles, cans and plastic, only to find RePlanet out of business.
“We’ve been coming regularly, for probably years now,” said Mike Walsh of San Mateo.
For some of these residents, recycling is the only business they have.
“I am surviving,” said Carlos in San Francisco. “This is not a big business.”
For years now, the business of recycling has been getting hammered by changes in the global economy.
Back in 2016, KPIX reported on the increased financial pressures on the recycling industry as demand in Asia for American recyclables started to decline. Since then, rates for many municipal agencies have risen.
For RePlanet, the state’s largest recycling business, the math simply wasn’t adding up.
By one estimate, as many as 40 percent of the state’s recycling centers have closed in the past five years, a blow to recycling efforts, as well as those who depend on them.
“It’s very difficult,” Carlos explained. “There are many people recycling right now, you know?”
For several years, recycling advocates have been pushing the state to reform its refund program, in hopes of keeping centers like RePlanet open. The reality is that keeping waste, particularly plastic, out of our landfills, is simply getting more expensive.
RePlanet HAS released a statement about the closures, saying it will “undergo a process to have its assets liquidated and creditors paid.”