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Recycling industry woes linger for North Bay haulers, processors

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Top business stories of 2019

Read about 10 business stories affecting the economy of San Francisco North Bay this year.

China’s National Sword is not a military program, although it does have international and economic implications, including in the North Bay.

Announced in January of last year, the Chinese government declared because of contamination, it would no longer accept mixed paper recycling, which can be anything from newspaper to office paper, as well as certain plastics.

That move has seen the recycling industry in the U.S. convulse, with refuse collection companies increasing garbage rates and recycling in order to make up the shortfall and some recyclers in the North Bay putting recycling directly into landfills.

The industry has long been heavily reliant on shipping and selling recycled overseas at a profit, many of which were contaminated with food or other materials and would eventually find their way into Chinese landfills.

The impacts of the policy have rippled beyond just refuse haulers. In August, rePlanet, California’s largest recycling chain, ceased operations, closing all of its 284 recycling centers and processing facilities and terminating its entire workforce throughout California. The closures included five locations in Solano County, one in Napa County and two in Sonoma County.

Because of that, under state law requiring accessible recycling facilities, many California and North Bay grocery and beverage retailers could soon be required to pay a $100 per day fee or become recycling redemption centers themselves to compensate for the closed facilities.

If a certified recycling center like those closed by rePlanet — many of which were essentially trailers in shopping center parking lots — is operational within a convenience zone, beverage dealers within that radius are not required to redeem bottles and cans for 5 and 10 cents apiece.

Marin Sanitary Service President and CEO Patty Garbarino previously told the Business Journal that the changing model of recycling in California and worldwide means the company has expanded how it generates revenue and serves customers, using technology like generating power from overlooked sources like processing food scraps and wood chips.

Marin Sanitary Service CFO Ray Holmes said in an email the company is requesting rate increases effective Jan. 1 ranging from 3.99% to 7.09% in the various areas the company provides service to. “Approximately 0.4% of the rate increase can be directly attributed to the continuing decline in the recycling commodities markets as a result of China’s National Sword Policy,” Holmes wrote.

A representative from Napa Recycling previously told the Business Journal his company would raise rates for residential and commercial customers 12% in August and that customers would see a 6%–10% increases annually for the next three years.

A representative of Recology in Santa Rosa previously told the Business Journal the company has been affected by the Chinese policy but has yet to raise rates for its service, although the option “is not completely off the table.”

Top business stories of 2019

Read about 10 business stories affecting the economy of San Francisco North Bay this year.

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