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State recycling bill passed

Associated Students Inc.’s recycling center received much needed fiscal relief from the state, taking away the need to cut recycling services — at least for now.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed ABX8 7, which will restore funding to the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund on March 8. Among other things, the bill accelerates payments from bottle distributors to the state’s recycling fund.

“There are so many [state] programs going under … so they’re doing a quick fix to keep everything going,” said Lee Johnson, ASI recycling coordinator.

The Daily 49er reported Feb. 11 that ASI’s recycling center was in danger of ending some of its services because of state funding cuts and the plummeting commodities market for recycled materials. Johnson had said the center would need to be subsidized by ASI for the 2010-11 school year to prevent that, but this is no longer the case.

“I don’t anticipate that we’ll have to be subsidized at all from ASI,” Johnson said in response to the bill’s passage.

However, the bill does not restore money borrowed from the fund for the first six months of the 2009-10 fiscal year. Consequently, the recycling center won’t be able to upgrade its facilities, which include a trailer that leaks, an outhouse and no running water.

A one-day environmental fair for children also had to be scrapped, partly because organizers weren’t able to raise enough money from private donors. Johnson said, however, that they hope to bring the fair back next year.

Bryan Early, policy associate for Californians Against Waste, called the bill a “short-term fix” and said it would keep the recycling fund stable for the near future.

“We should not be in the same boat in one year,” Early said.

However, Schwarzenegger said in a press release that the bill doesn’t secure the recycling fund from future problems.

“This bill does not make the necessary long-term changes to the program that I recommended and, therefore, the fund remains vulnerable to further program reductions beginning in the 2010-11 fiscal year,” the governor said in a press release.

According to Early, one of the recommendations was to shift an unredeemable fee from bottle distributors to consumers — something the environmental organization is against.

Johnson said the proposal is controversial since the state’s recycling program’s current cost to consumers is redeemable.

Another possible solution was one the governor cited in an earlier veto message: Include wine bottles in the state’s recycling program. Wine bottle distributors currently don’t pay into the California Redemption Value fee, which helps make up the recycling fund’s revenue.

However, Early said the biggest hurdle the recycling fund must face is the state borrowing from it.

“If the governor hadn’t borrowed half-billion dollars [from the fund], we wouldn’t be in this situation,” he said.

Another problem is that as more Californians recycle there is less money available to subsidize recycling programs, according to Early.

Early said his organization was pleased with the outcome. The bill has bipartisan support as it passed in the state Assembly on Feb. 25, 63-0.

He said, “[ABX8 7] was necessary, and I think [the governor] knew it was necessary.” 

 

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