Don’t Let Recycling Fraud Devour California’s Funds

Target: Governor Jerry Brown of California

Goal: Stop recycling fraud from draining the state of necessary funds.

Recycling fraud in California may be costing the state more than it pays out as massive fraud rings divert upwards of $40 million a year from the state budget—possibly even now exceeding $200 million. Under California law, recycling must be made easy for residents; but with such simplicity, criminals are also finding it easy to cheat the state out of millions of dollars. And it all comes down to where the cans are coming from.

A 25-year-old recycling law in California charges consumers a deposit on most beverage containers sold in the state. Once the containers are returned to one of the state’s 2,300 privately run recycling centers, the consumer is able to receive compensation by way of the already deposited sum. But because these facilities do not check the origin of the cans, it has become increasingly easy for scammers to bring truckloads of cans from Nevada and Arizona.

According to a report from the Los Angeles Times, because the scam is such easy money, recycling facilities are swamped with ineligible out-of-state cans—without any California Redemption Value (CRV)—the return rate is now reaching close to 100 percent. For certain plastic containers, the return rate is 104 percent, meaning more cans are being cashed out than are being sold, and California is paying for it.

California’s Department of Food and Agriculture found that an estimated 3,500 vehicles carted beverage containers into California last summer alone, and the Department of Justice has filed approximately 10 criminal cases this year against fraud rings. Just last month, Governor Jerry Brown enacted a law that would require any driver bringing 25 pounds of aluminum or plastic, or 250 pounds of glass, into the state must declare their reason for doing so before crossing the border.

With the state strapped for cash and valuable programs getting cut to alleviate the deficit, the state of California must combat this costly recycling fraud. Urge the Governor of California to continue working to eliminate this fraud by signing the petition below.


Dear Governor Brown,

Recycling fraud is costing the state upwards of $40 million a year. While great within the state, the deposit-reward system is largely being taken advantage of by scammers purchasing beverage containers across state lines (and not paying a deposit fee to the state) and bringing the items into California and receiving a redemption value. The practice has grown so big that more containers are being recycled in the state then were purchased. Even with better regulation at the borders, it is clear that more needs to be done here in the state and possibly at the 2,300 recycling centers located within.

As valuable and necessary statewide programs continue to be reduced or completely removed from the state, California must do more to reduce the money being paid to fraud. By signing this petition, I voice my concern about the amount of money leaving the state by way of recycling fraud; and I urge you, as the governor of California, to protect the state’s money and those who pay into it.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: State of California’s Department of Justice

Sign the Petition

  • Only your name will be displayed. By signing, you accept our terms and may receive updates on this and related causes.
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