Recycling centers disappearing amidst budget crisis

November 30, 2009 6:29:26 PM PST
California recycling centers have been disappearing recently. More than 600 of them have faded away since state funding dried up.

Freddie Hunter was ready to recycle on Monday, but was surprised to see that his neighborhood depot has shut down. It is one of more than 600 convenience centers near supermarkets that have closed recently because the recycling fund is too broke to keep them open.

"I think it's terrible. I think it's terrible. I think something should be done about that," Hunter says. "Us poor people need every little penny we can get there."

Recyclers are suing state leaders because the politicians borrowed nearly a $500 million over the years from the CRV fund. Those unclaimed container deposits went to help balance the budget instead of help recycling programs.

"When you borrow and you don't pay it back when the program is in trouble, that's no longer a loan. That's basically stealing money from the recycling program," says Mark Murray with Californians Against Waste.

The recycling program does not just help the environment. It also keeps at-risk young adults out of trouble by giving them jobs. Local conservation corps used to employ 4,000 people who are typically high school dropouts or parolees. Without funding, almost 1,000 kids have already been laid off their green jobs.

Conservation Corps member Donta Washington really wants to stay in the program.

"I have big hopes and aspirations and everything like that," she says. "So, this job has really put me on a straight path."

The governor, who touts himself as a green leader, vetoed a proposal a few weeks ago to increase the CRV because he did not like it. He will push lawmakers for a better bill.

H.D. Palmer with the California Finance Department says, "The Governor is disappointed that we are in this situation, which is why he wants to move very quickly in January to get a fix in place to right size this fund."

That is a challenging task, considering the state is facing a $21 billion deficit.


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