Hands Off

California bill targets recycling theft.

The California State Assembly and Senate have approved legislation that would crack down on the theft of recyclables such as newspapers and California redemption value (CRV) containers, which include aluminum cans, and plastic and glass bottles. The bill, AB 1778, would require junk dealers and recyclers to pay by check and obtain identifying information from people who turn in more than $100 worth of CRV containers or $50 worth of newspapers.

“AB 1778 brings these recycling raiders out from the shadows,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who authored the bill, in a press release. “The bill restores order to our neighborhoods and will help keep garbage rates low. As the price of recycled materials has gone up, so has the rate of theft. I am hopeful that this bill, which is so important to improving recycling programs, will be signed by the governor.”

If signed by the governor, the law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2009. Violations of this law would subject dealers or recyclers to fines up to $5,000. According to a recent newsletter to its customers, San Francisco-based Norcal Waste Systems details how organized theft of recyclables has turned into an underground commercial economy that costs the city at least $469,000 each year. “Residents report that recycling thieves wake families in the middle of the night, throw newspapers and other materials on the ground (leaving homeowners to deal with the mess) and trespass onto private property,” according to the newsletter.

The bill, however, did meet vigorous opposition from some recycling companies that opposed the record-keeping requirement, according to the press release from Assemblywoman Ma's office.