James Folmer, editor, Redlands Community News

Recycling your cans, bottles, plastic, paper and other disposables through routes that avoid landfills is virtuous, especially for those of us who believe climate change is real and care about sea creatures.

If you want to save the planet, you’re looking for ways to reduce single-use plastic products, including straws. And God forbid using a plastic bag that isn’t reusable.

However, the system isn’t working.

RePlanet, California’s largest operator of recycling redemption centers, shut down the last of its 284 centers on Monday. Within the past three years, it has closed 191 other centers, including the one next to the Albertson’s on Redlands Boulevard. The first round cost 278 employees their jobs. The latest one put another 750 employees out of work, according to statement by rePlanet CEO David Lawrence, first reported by the San Jose Mercury News on Monday afternoon.

This means the rePlanet centers in Redlands — including the ones next to McDonalds at Lugonia and Wabash avenues, behind the Stater Bros. at Barton Road and Alabama Street, and next to the Ranch Market on Church Street and Lugonia — are all shuttered.

The statement by Lawrence cites a reduction in state funding for the program and the declining value of aluminum and plastic, which has been exacerbated by China’s withdrawal from the industry. He also cites the impact of higher minimum wage, which has increased costs because the company must now provide health insurance and workers compensation.

“The company has concluded that operation of these recycling centers and supporting operations is no longer sustainable,” Lawrence’s statement said.

The Mercury News also cites a March 2019 study by Consumer Watchdog, “Half a Nickel,” which reports that for every nickel spent on bottle deposits a California consumer gets is 2.65 cents. Consumers have been cheated out of at least $308 million.

“The investigation found the true total annual cost of the consumer rip-off was $732 million because of additional ways that consumers were deprived of their deposit,” the report says.    

It is disturbing that our local leaders and the California Legislature — dominated by Democrats, the party that considers climate change an imminent threat — has let this situation reach this state of crisis.

We need a system that works, even if that means going back to the days when we took our Coca-Cola bottles back to the store for a fair refund.

We already know that recycling is important. We need to know that it does the job we expect it to do — help save the planet.