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Audit: Calif. recycling program full of errors

June 22, 2010 7:04:10 PM PDT
A simple way to bring in easy money for the state is falling short. California's recycling program charges you for every bottle and can you buy, but a recent audit finds the program is poorly managed, and the projections of how much it should be bringing in are off by tens of millions of dollars.

The audit is critical of the way California is managing the fund that holds plastic bottle and aluminum can deposits, known as the CRVs, you pay when you buy beverages.

It found:

  • The state is lax in detecting fraud, like catching people who cash in containers from other states

  • Revenue forecasts were often way off-base over by $158 million one year.

  • It failed to collect millions from beverage companies which are also supposed to contribute to the CRV fund.
The auditor says such mismanagement hurts consumers.

"Recycling centers were closing down because there wasn't enough money to support the program. So that affects consumers, where you don't have places to take your recyclables to get your CRV back," California State Auditor Elaine Howle said.

The state recycling program lauds its 80 percent statewide recycling rate, but acknowledges it can do better.

"For the most part, the recycling program functions very well for all consumers. The report does identify some things we need to do better, and we look forward to implementing those changes," CalRecycle Deputy Director Jason Marshall said.

Many consumers are upset because they thought when they didn't cash in their CRV, the money helped improve the environment, when in fact the state uses it for many other things.

"Oh yeah, it really ticks me off a lot because I work hard for my money. I wish I thought they did too," recycler Leslie Parker said.

It'll be interesting to see what Wall Street will think of the audit report. Assembly Democrats were hoping to use the recycling fund as collateral for a multi-billion dollar loan that could help the state prevent deeper budget cuts.

"It really provides a road map for how we strengthen the fund and ultimately making it a better sell on Wall Street," Assm. Bob Blumenfield, D-Los Angeles, said.


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