I guess I'm an average consumer. I didn't mind recycling because the thought of all that material (glass, paper, aluminum cans and plastic) going into a landfill was an affront to me. Newport has a program whereby the residential waste is sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) but since my household uses a trash compactor, I wondered if materials inside the compactor bag were also sorted. I called the city and left a message for the General Services/Waste office.
What I wanted to know was what happens to all that glass when it gets crushed and broken in the trash trucks. An employee called back and said that Newport Beach recovers 50% of the waste that is processed through the MRF and that they are pretty sophisticated in the recovery operations. Good to know, but I also thought, "Well, I can get 100% recovery by recycling."
So, as an environmentally-conscious consumer, I separated the recyclables and stored the containers in my garage until it got to the point where the mass became obtrusive. So I checked online to see when Garcia's was open. They were a Costa Mesa recycling business that no longer is there. The city of Costa Mesa didn't renew their operating permits and shut them down. I guess there were complaints about noise, the homeless, etc., and now they're gone.
Great. So I spent the next 20 minutes trying to find another place close to home. Good luck with that.
Some places take CRV plastics Nos. 1-7; some only CRV 1; some take CRV beer bottles but not wine bottles or any other glass. For the love of Pete, I don't want a Ph.D in recycling lingo or CRV cryptology, I just want to do the responsible thing and get the stuff to the right place!
I called Waste Management. They have an Orange County facility in Irvine off Construction Circle. They seem to be the place that will take everything, no problem.
I loaded up the daughter's Cherokee because my Prius, although roomy, couldn't handle the volume of stuff I had. So after 45 minutes of this adventure, I started loading up the rig content that I was doing the right thing.
I arrived at the Waste Management recycling Center in Irvine (5.9 miles from my home) only to discover they aren't open on Mondays. How inconvenient.
Irritated at not having Garcia's as an option (Garcia's took all glass, plastic CVR bottles and cans), I thought I'd try one other place I knew about: The recycling place on 22nd Street in the parking lot of Stater Bros. Upon arrival, I find they are also closed on Mondays. Fantastic. I was feeling pretty good about my ever-growing carbon footprint as I chased down facilities after putting 18 miles on the Cherokee and having burned up just over a gallon of gas joyriding in the Newport/Irvine/Costa Mesa area. All the while I was wondering what a fantastic scam the government had going on.
The CRV we pay basically amounts to a nice fat tax on bottles, cans and plastics. You can imagine the return on this: The state government collects tens of millions of dollars but really only pays out a tiny fraction of that, whether it be through cash collected by dopey consumers who actually recycle or through payments to MRFs, or any other large-scale recycler. Then there is the bureaucratic hope that the government doesn't have to pay anything for all of those millions of items that are never recycled.
So if you're collecting $10 in CRV taxes but only have to pay back $1, not a bad business, right? And who pays for all this? You and me.
Well, I'll never get back the two hours I spent trying to do the right thing. I guess the only answer to the scam is to buy responsibly. After all this exhaustion, I swore off recycling. If it is this difficult no one will do it. And that's the bet the state is banking on …. and they're winning.
Carl E. Ossipoff is a Newport Beach resident.