A five year long legal battle between the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the non-profit carpet recycling group Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE) ended on Tuesday with CARE settling the case for $1.175 million dollars.
The legal battle dates back to 2013, when CARE was tasked by CalRecycle to follow through on the then-recently passed Carpet Product Stewardship law. Under the agreement, CARE would help increase carpet recycling in the state for the next several years, as well as increasing the landfill diversion of used carpet, increasing the recyclability of carpet, and incentivizing the market growth of new products made from used carpet. The overall goal would be to have 24% carpeting recycling by 2020.
However, CARE continued to fail to meet the goals each year, actually seeing a total reduction of carpet being recycled under their watch. The carpet recycle rate went down to 12.2% in 2012, hitting a low of 10.1% in 2015, before ending 2016 with only a 10.9% rate. This caused CalRecycle to fine CARE in 2017 for $3.3 million.
CARE immediately appealed the fine, with CalRecycle lowering it to $821,000 the next year. CARE continued to appeal it until January when a Sacramento County Superior Court judge held up the fine. Another fine, totaling $275,000 for failing to meet the 2016 standards, was also questioned even after the court ruling until a settlement was reach earlier this week.
CalRecycle noted in a press release that the fines were necessary to increase carpet recycling across the state
“Recycling carpet is critical for California to meet its climate and waste diversion goals,” said California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery Director Rachel Machi Wagoner in a press release on Wednesday. “With the nation’s first carpet recycling program, California can model how designing products to be recycled creates a circular, renewable economy with less pollution.”
While rates have improved, with CARE reaching a 19.1% recycling rate of all carpet in the state in 2019, the early low figures had earlier adoption of some recycling methods, making CARE not reach the 2020 24% carpeting recycling rate goal in time.
“California, especially CalRecycle, has gotten more serious about recycling over the years, despite the growing number of recycling redemption closures,” explained environmental lawyer Maria Maris to the Globe. “The state, especially CalRecycle, really doesn’t want recycling to be a punchline in the state. So that’s why they were fined so heavily. It’s becoming a message now that they’re serious.”
Under the settlement agreement, CARE is due to pay all penalties with a reduction of interest by June 15th.
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