Turning trash into treasure
Redemption value nearly doubles
By Gregory Crofton
Tribune staff writer
The piercing sound of glass hitting glass. The sickening aroma of empty soda cans, beer cans and wine bottles. Men wearing thick plastic earmuffs.
These things add up to one type of place – a recycling center: a way to keep aluminum, glass, plastic and paper from being lost to a landfill for hundreds of years.
Recycling may not be a pleasant task but it pays. And because of legislation that became law in California on Jan. 1, it pays nearly double what it used to.
The value for plastic, glass and aluminum bottles and cans increased from 2.5 cents to 4 cents, and from 5 cents to 8 cents for containers larger than 24 ounces.
“You name it, I recycle it,” said Mike Marlowe, 65 of South Lake Tahoe. “Tin, cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass. I’m not being dramatic. It’s the right thing to do. It’s like giving something back.”
Marlowe was glad to hear about the increase but he said it wouldn’t affect his recycling habits.
Not everyone has noticed the change, but South Tahoe Refuse has noticed an impact. During the first three months of 2004, its recycling center at 2192 Ruth Ave. received 30 percent more plastic than it did during the first three months of last year.
“I think many more people are now aware that they are paying California redemption value at the store for water bottles,” said Jeanne Lear, human resource manager at STR. “I think the light bulb finally came on that they are in fact recyclables.”
The cashier at the recycling center, Joyce Plumb, said that in the last two months she has seen approximately 100 new faces.
Chris Loeffler, 42, of South Lake Tahoe, isn’t one of them. He’s a regular at the center. Loeffler routinely combs Regan and El Dorado beach for plastic and glass.
“It’s a nice place, why ruin it?” he said. “I do it for the environment. I do it for the cash. I’d do it regardless.”
On Tuesday, Loeffler recycled 12.2 pounds of aluminum for $15.25; 10.8 pounds of plastic for $7.24; and got 56 cents for 7 Sunny Delight bottles.
The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Recycling said it is too early to tell the impact of the new redemption values.
“We won’t get our first data until fall,” said Mark Oldfield, a spokesman for the state agency. “But that’s great to hear plastics are increasing … in the overall market they are recycled at the lowest rate.”
A downward trend in recycling rates in California is what led to the increase in can and bottle values. The trend took hold after a bill passed in 2000 increasing the number of containers that can be recycled for cash.
“When the program was expanded to include water, tea, coffee drinks, vegetable juices, the universe of containers expanded by 33 percent,” Oldfield said. “Even aluminum has been trending downward. There is a knowledge gap to close. Our challenge is to make people aware of what can be recycled and redeemed for cash. The new California redemption value is an added incentive.”