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California's largest recycling business closes, 750 laid off

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SAN JOSE — California's largest operator of recycling redemption centers shut down Monday and laid off 750 employees.

RePlanet closed all 284 of its centers, and company president David Lawrence said the decision was driven by increased business costs and falling prices of recycled aluminum and PET plastic, the San Jose Mercury News reported .

The move came three years after RePlanet closed 191 of its recycling centers and laid off 278 workers.

Now many San Francisco Bay Area residents have few or no options for redeeming their recyclables, which is especially concerning for those who live in poverty or experience homelessness and rely on recycling for income.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that studies issues in California's recycling industry, estimated that more than 40% of all redemption centers have closed in the last five years. The closures result in consumers only getting back about half of their nickel and dime bottle and can deposits, according to a recent report from the nonprofit.

The closures also mean that more bottles made of aluminum and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, will end up in landfills. People will either throw their recyclables directly into the garbage, or place them in curbside recycling bins, which are often filled with contaminated material that must be discarded. China, which has bought much of the U.S.'s recyclable material, has become stricter about what kinds of material it will accept.

Advocates are urging the state to reform how it subsidizes recycling centers to account for rising operating costs in the wake of continuously low aluminum and plastic prices.

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