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Crime goes green as California loses thousands and thousands to recycling fraud

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Recycling is good for the earth and great for industry, as it means materials can be used over and over again. However, those states which motivate recycling through container deposit redemptions, such as a dime for every beer bottle one turns in, are getting punished for their good deeds. A number of states, such as California and Michigan, are losing millions per year to recycling fraud. Article source:

California losing millions to recycling fraud as crime goes green

California recycling fraud everywhere

An episode of “Seinfeld,” a comedy sitcom from the 1990s, had characters in it that would drive trucks with beer bottles to Michigan to be able to get 10 cents per bottle instead of 5 cents.

This type of fraud is costing California thousands and thousands of dollars annually, according to the LA Times article. Just like in the show, people will take their cans from out of state to California so they can get five cents for every beverage container such as glass and plastic bottles and 10 cents for larger containers.

Many people have been found driving a lot of cans and bottles in from Arizona and Nevada, though the state is only intended to refund cash for bottle acquired in California. The state ends up paying about $40 million a year due to the fraud, though some think it is as much as $200 million a year. The other method of fraud at recycling centers is with fraudulent bookkeeping where the same container is counted many times.

California, like other states with container deposit law or “bottle bill,” demands a 5 to 10 cent deposit for containers from the manufacturer, in the purchase price of whatever the item is, like beer, wine, soda or bottled water. Those deposits can be redeemed for cash, if the purchaser or someone returns the container to a designated recycling center. The way fraud works is that people drop off bottles and cans from out of state.

About $1.1 billion got paid in container deposits last year in California, but the state only paid $100 million back out to get the storage containers back.

Robbers trying to steal

Reusing containers is not only good for the environment, it is great for manufacturers. It's an old practice, too; early instances of offering cash for empty containers was recorded around 1800, according to a very good history of British soft drinks on Britishsoftdrinks.com, site for a British trade association for beverage makers. Aside from an Irish spring water business called A&R Thwaites and Co., another company doing likewise at the time was a soda water outfit called Schweppes.

Regulations like this can be found in 11 states. They also have instances of container fraud helping them lose money. For instance, Maine is anticipated to lose $8 million a year to fraud, according to Bangor Daily News. Michigan is also anticipated to lose $13 million a year to the practice, according to Mlive.com.


Los Angeles Times

Bangor Daily News

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