UPDATE, 7:48 A.M., Friday, Sept. 22:
The Fresno City Council unanimously approved restrictions Thursday evening that are expected to force 16 of the city’s 22 recycling centers out of business.
Under the new regulations, which must be confirmed by a second council vote to become law, large grocery stores will have to choose between setting up recycling collection points inside their stores or pay a $100 daily fine.
Councilman Paul Caprioglio, who mounted a two-year effort to get the restrictions adopted, told The Fresno Bee that there is not a big need for the recycling centers because of the city’s residential curbside collection program.
Caprioglio pushed his proposal on the belief that recycling centers are magnets for crime.
Susan Collins of the nonprofit Container Recycling Institute countered that argument. She told The Bee that the redemption value paid out for cans and bottles at Fresno redemption centers could be as high as $15 million annually.
Are recycling centers magnets for crime?
That is the motivation for a new Fresno City Council resolution. If passed, it would seriously restrict where recycling centers can operate. Some in the business say it would effectively wipe them out of Fresno.
The ordinance sponsored by councilmen Paul Caprioglio and Oliver Baines would require all recycling centers to move into a permanent building. According to Caprioglio’s calculations, the ordinance could shut down 16 of 22 centers in the city.
The reason to regulate? Crime. Caprioglio says police responded to 260 calls for service at recycling centers in a six-and-half-month period last year. Police Chief Jerry Dyer agrees that recycling centers draw crime.
“When it deals with those recycling centers, I have no question that the placement of those recycling centers in particular neighborhoods are an attractive nuisance,” Dyer said. “Those are the individuals that are often times not just taking in the recyclables, but they are going back into that neighborhood and stealing those recyclables from some of the bins.”
Council Wants to Make Trash Bin Theft a Misdemeanor
Dyer says his department has a task force to go around neighborhoods to deter those picking out of bins on trash day. He also said that it can lead to other crimes in the neighborhood such as break-ins and theft. Dyer says it is an infraction to take items out of a residential or commercial trash bin without permission. On Thursday, the council is scheduled to vote on reclassifying trash and recycling bin theft as a misdemeanor.
“Yes, that attractive nuisance of that recycling center within particular areas does contribute to crime,” Dyer said.
So, what would the proposal do?
- Must operate in the “footprint” of a business (i.e. within the four walls).
- Recycling materials must be stored in a permanent structure (no more portable structures).
- Two-year Conditional Use Permits required.
- Place restrictions on the use of shopping carts.
The police department would also have the option of requiring recyclers to offer vouchers instead of cash and use surveillance cameras.
Mayor Lee Brand says he wants to be fair to all.
“It’s got to be a balance between what’s fair for the businesses and what’s fair for the community. Unfortunately, in a lot of locations, it has been a real problem for neighborhoods. It’s an area where crime is committed,” he said.
Specifically, he said the Save Mart by First and Nees avenues has had major issues near the Kastner Intermediate School.
However, that recycling center closed down a year or so ago.
Recycling Workers Worry About Losing Jobs
GV Wire spoke with some workers at recycling centers. Jose Gutierrez works at Recycle OXBA at Shields and First avenues. Long Ly works at Kyle’s Recycling a few blocks away.
Both worried about their jobs.
Gutierrez also doubts a city ordinance will help crime.
Supermarkets Oppose Ordinance
Aaron Moreno is senior director of government relations for the California Grocers Association. He’s concerned about the prospect of recycling taking place inside stores. Currently, a major retailer (defined as $2 million in sales a year) doesn’t have to accept bottles and cans as long as there is another recycler within one-half mile.
Moreno appeared before the Planning Commission last month. He told them that if more stores were forced to comply with state law by accepting recycling, it would disrupt the cleanliness of their markets.
Talking about supermarkets that do accept recyclables within the store, Moreno said,” “Every day we pray that the environmental health inspectors don’t show up.”
He further told GV Wire they would be put in a Catch-22 position. “In order to comply with the city’s ordinance, we would be breaking state law. In order to comply with state law, we’d be breaking the city ordinance.”
The Planning Commission rejected the proposal to regulate the recycling industry that night. Despite the opposition, Caprioglio told me “everyone can have their two cents.”
According to the state’s recycling agency, stores that are not in compliance would be fined $100 a day which equals $36,500 a year. Or 730,000 cans.