Apparently, in some states, recycling can go too far.
According to a media release from the office of the California attorney general on Tuesday, eight members of a family are being charged with fraud for a scheme that involved importing recyclables into the Golden State from Arizona.
“Over an eight-month period, the suspects defrauded California’s beverage container recycling program of $7.6 million by bringing tons of out-of-state materials from Arizona for redemption,” read the news release from California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with CalRecycle director Rachel Machi Wagoner.
“They are facing multiple charges including recycling fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy.”
“California’s recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities,” said Attorney General Bonta.
“Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable.”
As Twitter users pointed out, this was once the plot of a “Seinfeld” two-part episode in which Newman points out to Kramer that bottles and cans which were recycled for 5 cents in New York could be redeemed for 10 cents in Michigan. (TL;DR: It didn’t work out, although not because the logic behind it is fundamentally unsound.)
Wait, wasn’t this a plot line from Seinfeld involving Kramer and Newman?https://t.co/oGMrZR0ESh
— Narr Trek (@narrtrek) July 26, 2023
Kramer and Newman tried this and couldn’t make it work.https://t.co/JGaaO8p9U2
— Andy Bartsch (@CoachBartsch) July 28, 2023
In this case, however, it seems to have worked — which is why these eight individuals are facing serious charges.
Maria Ermelinda Saenz Gonzalez, Francisco Balmore Amaya Saenz, Jose Raul Chica, Jose Antonio Interiano Martinez, Jose Alfredo Giron Henriquez, Victor Manuel Hernandez, Manuela Rodriguez Rizo, and Genaro Solis Fuentes now face charges for smuggling the 178 tons of recyclable material to the state, according to KTLA-TV.
In addition, officials say they confiscated another $1 million worth of recyclable materials that were destined for the California Redemption Value program, where privately owned recycling centers pay them between five and 10 cents per item.
The family runs recycling centers across Riverside County, according to KTLA.
CalRecycle director Rachel Wagoner said they were working with the Department of Justice to coordinate efforts to “stop criminals and protect funds that belong to Californians.”
“California will not tolerate fraud against our recycling deposit system that has kept nearly a half-trillion bottles and cans from being littered or landfilled in our state,” Wagoner said.
Meanwhile, Arizona doesn’t have a similar program. So, why not celebrate these fine folks? After all, these cans and bottles could have been just thrown away in a state that didn’t have a recycling program! If California cares about the environment and recycling is so great for it, it should welcome entrepreneurs willing to take bottles and cans across state lines when they might just get thrown away in Arizona.
Of course, it might be that California’s recycling program costs its residents a truckload of money — $308 million lost in 2018 alone. And only material sold in California is eligible, which is why eight family members are now facing between $10,000 and $50,000 in bail costs.
It’s almost like one of the most leftmost states on the map — both geographically and politically — doesn’t believe that its incentivized recycling program is a net good for the environment and more of a burden on taxpayers that politicians dare not drop yet, lest they be accused of anti-environmentalism. Perish the thought.