Calif. Budget Forces Recycling Center Closures

November 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Hundreds of recycling centers across California are shutting down, and it's all because of a cash grab meant to help bridge the state's budget gap. Freddie Hunter was ready to recycle Monday, but was surprised to see his neighborhood depot has shut down. It's one of more than 300 convenience centers near supermarkets that have closed recently because the recycling fund too broke to keep them open.

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

Recyclers are suing state leaders because the politicians borrowed nearly a half-billion dollars over the years from the C.R.V. fund. Those unclaimed container deposits went to help balance the budget instead of help recycling programs.

Mark Murray with Californians Against Waste said, "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."

The recycling program doesn't 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.

Donta Washington really wants to stay in the program. "I have big hopes and aspirations and everything like that. This job puts me on a straight path."

The governor, who touts himself as a green leader, vetoed a proposal a few weeks ago to increase the C.R.V. because he didn't like it, he'll push lawmakers for a better bill.

"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 the fund," said H.D. Palmer with the California Finance Department.

That's a challenge task, considering the state is facing a $21-billion deficit.


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