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Billion-dollar bottle shock in Sacramento as a good green program gets a whack

November 29, 2009 |  9:38 pm

Pick your metaphor for California budget stupidity. We're eating our seed corn. We're destroying California in order to save it. Any parallel to self-destructive behavior will do.

Now it's recycling centers. California wisely charges customers a few cents' refundable deposit on those plastic and glass bottles we otherwise toss away so blithely, which is the same as tossing nickels and dimes away, because that's what they're worth at recycling centers.

[I was just in Arizona, a state which refuses to charge people a refundable deposit, with the result that its roads and public spots can look like a Third World refuse heap -- actually, I take that back. The Third World is too poor to be as wasteful as we are. I hope some forthcoming issue of Arizona Highways includes all the potentially recyclable trash that appears alongside those scenic roadways.]

California's program has been very successful in keeping hundreds of millions of bottles out of landfills and off roadsides. Too successful, it seems. After about two decades of profitable recycling that's given jobs to young people who need the money and the work, not to mention keeping California tidy, the state scooped nearly a half-billion dollars out of the prosperous recycling fund to try to fill its own pathetic budget hole. Recycling centers are closing, and the jobs for those young people are going with them. Once again, the state's inability to deal with its own finances mean another promising program gutted.

Here's my colleague Shane Goldmacher's story about the whole sorry mess.


Now, Gov. Schwarzenegger says he means to refill the fund next year, yeah, yeah, yeah, but this is the same governor who vetoed raising the deposit fees on those 5 billion California containers -- yep, billion. He wants wine and liquor bottles to be included in the deposit fees, too. So do I, but the chances of certain elements of the Legislature standing up to the rich, rich liquor lobby are probably about the same as the alcohol content in water -- to wit, zero.

Well, Christmas is coming. Let's all ask Santa to give Sacramento a new spine, shall we?

-- Patt Morrison

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