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State's Recycling Efforts in Crisis, Leaving Central And South Coast Consumers In Lurch

John Villanti pulls his car up to a recycling kiosk in a shopping plaza off of Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. He opens the trunk, which is packed with plastic bags full of recyclables. Then, the Thousand Oaks man looks over at the kiosk, which is normally busy with three or four people waiting in line on a weekday morning. There is no one here, and scrawled in paint across the small building are the words “Out of Business-Permanently.” It’s a sign of a recycling crisis.

Some experts say America’s recycling market has collapsed. Dr. Roland Geyer is a Professor of Industrial Ecology with U-C Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management. Geyer is one of the world’s leading experts on waste, and recycling.

He says China, and other Asian countries which used to take U.S. waste for reuse have stopped taking it. The situation is so bad for recyclers that instead of making money on things like plastics, the value as dropped so low they have to pay to get rid of them.

That’s what led to the collapse of RePlanet, the familiar kiosks located in shopping plazas around the state. Those kiosks made up about a fifth of the state’s redemption centers, and the only ones in some areas.

The UCSB researcher believes it may take the state stepping in to help fill the recycling void. Geyer says right now, the system is broken.

He also believes that we as consumers need to rethink the way we consume things, and look carefully at things like packaging.

Geyer says the reality is that despite awareness of the issue, we are producing more waste than over. Globally, it’s more than two billion tons a year. And, in the U.S., we create on average about four and a half pounds of garbage a day per person.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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