If there’s money in an activity, there’s opportunity for fraud. That’s become true of the recycling industry. California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act incentivizes recycling through a California Redemption Value (CRV) fee paid by consumers at the time of purchase and refunded upon return of empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans to state-certified recycling centers. California agents have arrested nine suspects in a move to dismantle an organized recycling fraud ring that stretched from Phoenix to Los Angeles. According to a press release from California’s Office of Public Affairs, the multi-state network of buyers, sellers, baggers, loaders, and drivers are believed to be responsible for smuggling semi-truck loads of ineligible out-of-state containers into the state for fraudulent redemption at multiple Southern California recycling centers.
The CRV fee is not paid on beverages purchased outside the state and those containers, therefore, are not eligible for CRV redemption.
“Recycling fraud is a serious crime with real consequences for the offenders,” said CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa. “CalRecycle tackles this problem through an effective collaboration with law enforcement partners who are committed to finding those who would attempt to defraud the state.”
During the months-long investigation, the defendants allegedly brought truckloads of nonredeemable material from Arizona to storage facilities and recycling centers in Southern California in order to redeem the material for money and defraud California’s CRV fund. Drivers deliberately took a long, circuitous route in order to avoid inspection by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the release said.
The defendants have been charged with felony recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft. Additionally, the truck drivers involved may face suspension of their commercial driver’s licenses and have their tractor-trailers impounded. Upon conviction, felony recycling fraud and related crimes carry a potential sentence of six months to three years behind bars in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and possible loss of driver’s license and/or vehicle.
This isn’t the first time the state has uncovered recycling fraud. Over the past few years as plastic has become more valuable as a recyclable material, PlasticsToday has covered incidences of stolen plastic industrial pallets, dairy containers, and other large items taken to recycling facilities for the money offered.
“The CRV recycling program is a publicly-funded program meant to better our environment and benefit our communities,” said state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Individuals who cheat the program cheat their fellow Californians. Losing a valuable service which reduces landfill waste is not an option. At the California Department of Justice, we continue to investigate recycling fraud and hold perpetrators accountable.”
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