California family faces prison time for $7.6-million recycling scheme that cleaned up 178 tons of cans and bottles
· Jul 28, 2023 ·

A Southern California family of eight worked together to clean up 178 tons of aluminum and plastic containers, keeping the materials from polluting the environment, harming indigenous species, and causing more climate change (whatever that is).

But California was having none of their "save the planet" shenanigans.

The California Department of Justice announced the arrest of the family members allegedly defrauding the state's recycling program of $7.6 million.

The reason?

Some of the materials were from Arizona.

The California Beverage Container Recycling Program is administered by CalRecycle. The program's California Redemption Value (CRV) fee incentivizes recycling at privately-owned centers with a 5- or 10-cent return on eligible beverage containers. California consumers subsidize the CRV program every time they purchase CRV-eligible bottles and cans in the state.

Only material from California is eligible for redemption under this program.

It's similar to bottle-bill recycling schemes other states like Iowa and Michigan have been doing for years.

Arizona doesn't participate in such a scheme.

"California's recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable. I am grateful to my team of diligent investigators, and to our partners at CalRecycle, for uncovering this fraud scheme and for working together to protect funds that belong to California consumers who recycle."

"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," said CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner. "CalRecycle's partnership with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is working to stop criminals and protect funds that belong to Californians."

Did the family set out to defraud California of money?

The chances are pretty high. I mean they imported tons of cans and bottles from Arizona and turned them in for refunds in California. They could face up to 6 years in prison for the scheme.

But they were still saving the planet, something California claims to care a lot about. If I was their lawyer, I would label them environmental activists to get some of that sweet California jury sympathy.

One thing's for sure, if they had shoplifted all those cans and bottles in Californian stores instead of getting all entrepreneurial about it, the DOJ would be out shaking their hands instead of prosecuting them.

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