More ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ from Seinfeld

I’ve always said that the global warming story is just like another product of Vandelay Industries, as some of the more alarming parts foisted on us are simply sitcom variety fiction. Even Jim Hansen’s NASA GISS office has a hilarious Seinfeld component.

Hot on the heels of the $54 million “found money” fiasco at the California State Parks department we have this just outed by the Los Angeles Times: Rampant recycling fraud is draining California cash

It’s like that episode of Seinfeld, where Kramer and Newman load up a mail truck full of bottles and cans to take advantage of the higher payoff in another state.

From the LA Times story:

The illicit trade is draining the state’s $1.1-billion recycling fund. Government officials recently estimated the fraud at $40 million a year, and an industry expert said it could exceed $200 million. It’s one reason the strapped fund paid out $100 million more in expenses last year than it took in from deposits and other sources.

Last summer, the state Department of Food and Agriculture counted all vehicles driving into the state with used beverage containers through 16 border stations. The three-month tally was 3,500, including 505 rental trucks filled to capacity with cans.

More and more, we are seeing connections between green, government handouts, and fraudulent abuse of the system. This isn’t a sustainable path.

Seems it has been going on awhile, it was reported on back in 2008, and we still have nothing done about it.

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42 thoughts on “More ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ from Seinfeld

  1. Interesting, I was just talking about this last night from a friend who recently returned from a trip to Michigan. Apparently (I was told), most grocery stores now have bar code readers that reject “out of state” containers. Must be this Seinfeld episode inspired enough copycats for a technology investment. Although, that’s what having no money forces you to do (as Michigan (I was told) never really recovered from the 2000 recession).

  2. And you think this is news ???
    In Germany where recycling is a national pastime 0.25 cents ( euro ) is the deposit payed on a bottle, BUT ! if you buy a bottle of water/beer in the south and try and redeem your money in the north, forget-it, the TV showed a junk yard in Bremen with an estimated 600 tons of plastic bottles that had not received there deposits, like all things political it is a scam.

  3. Absolutely delicious. The spirit of free trade and entrepreneurship that made America great lives on – Barak or no Barak. I salute you!

  4. One man’s “fraudulent abuse” is another man’s “savvy business sense,” I guess. If one state is buying recyclables at a higher rate than another, people living near the border of the higher paying state are going to sell to that state. It’s human nature to try to get the best deal.

    The real fraud is that the state is buying the recyclables at higher rate than they’re worth, then using taxpayer money to cover the loss. The sellers aren’t to blame. They didn’t make the state offer to overpay for the recyclables.

  5. Years ago, before “recycling” became the rage (and mandated), there were people who actually made a profit doing it. Now the supply end has been flooded so there’s not a lot of profit in it (unless mandated and subsidized). Maybe there’s profit for the companies that make recycling equipment. Does GE make equipment to recover mercury from landfills that is introduced to them by their mandated CF light bulbs?

  6. The downside to highlighting the shortcomings of this sort of scheme is that it only adds to the pressure for national laws to cover the situation. That’s the sort of outcome that is likely in Australia.

  7. Just how much over market is California paying? Cans have a recycle value driven by accessibility of re-smelters, but there is little market for bottles (now that China manufactures much of the glass), so if you are forced to pay a deposit on a bottle, the deposit on a “found bottle” must be gravy. But bottles are bulky…are the cans crushed, and if so how would you verify the source?

  8. In South Australia bottle and can deposits have been in place for 40+ years. there is little in the way of abuse though, as I suspect there is no cost/benefit in shipping the stuff a thousand km to get the return on a load.

    Interestingly, South Australia is a very clean State, no bottles/cans lying around. Kids used to walk around picking them up, making pocket money. A kid with a sack was tomorrow’s Businessman.

    The deposit is actually charged at point of sale, and it’s demonstrable (used to be, anyway, I haven’t lived there for 13 years) that the price is higher there.

    Funny that stupid Greens in America cannot see that in a plce where everything’s close together this was never going to work on a State by State basis, but then, as we all know, Greens are very intelligent people, but they just don’t have any brains…

  9. Michigan has to accept it if it says MI 10 /c refund – and most producers don’t have different UPC barcodes based on bottler location. Right across the border there seems to be NO difference, but I haven’t checked larger radii.

    I wonder if Mexico bottlers change anything.

    The reason was originally not recycling, but litter. Many people go through trash or search the shoulders of highways or other places, the dimes add up.

    I think we should go to 5 cents or maybe there should be a national law saying 5 cents or nothing, but would be redeemable in any other deposit state.

    Of course I would never buy my beer in Ohio to sudsidize my habit.

  10. I find it vastly interesting that someone is ripping kali off on the recycling bit. it makes up somewhat (not totally) for the rip of where they charge us sales tax on the ~50 cents per gallon we already pay on gasoline.

    also when you buy a computer or other electronic thing you are charged a hefty fee for disposal but ten years later when you turn it in you have to pay another fee as they don’t even try to look up your number of purchase.

    C

  11. “tsk, tsk, tsk’ said Alice; “and since when was arbitrage deemed a criminal offence; and more ‘specially, when it allows the simple honest folk of one state to contribute their taxes (and more) to the benefit of another” she said; followed by “gasp, chortle, chortle” and followed in turn by unseemly rolling ’round as the obvious 2nd shoe dropped and she began to wonder why the IPCC hadn’t institutionalised this one too.
    “and remember” she opined to herself and her invisible cat, “it’s not just the re-cycling either, imagine the boost to the Van Rental business”
    Lewis Carroll, take a bow

  12. The Expulsive – It isn’t a measure of what the market is paying, rather a state mandated deposit/refund. California charges an extra 5 or 10 cents per can deposit (I don’t know what their particular deposit is) whereas, across the border in Nevada and Arizona, no such deposit is taken or remitted. So – a bunch of non-deposit-paid cans bought in NV or AZ are able to be taken into CA, and the person turning in the cans in CA gets paid the “deposit” (that was never taken in the first place) thus driving the system even more into the red, beyond the program admin costs.

  13. Hmmmmn.

    (Robt gets out calculator …. Fuel price book for CA and Oregon, Washington. Gets GPS, hotel map, restaurant planner on I-10.)

    Well, driving squished aluminum cans from the Southeast, GA, Alabama, FL or TX out to California isn’t really economical at any recycle payback rate.

    But airplanes and rockets are mostly aluminum, and they squish real good on high-speed impacts.

    So if I load a whole bunch of squished aluminum cans into a rocket in FL or TX and launch it out towards California so it lands in a junkyard ….. But should I go east-west launch, or the conventional west-to-east direction all the way around?

  14. Seriously? They want to declare fraudulent and take away the main income of many homeless people?

    There is no sense whatsoever for the deposit rate to be different from state to state, and individual states that want to rip off…. er… charge more for the deposit should be penalized for increasing the cost of law enforcement.

    I see nothing whatsoever wrong with the concept of the bottle/can deposit, it’s been around as long as I can remember (used to be 2c on a glass coke bottle), and probably does more than any other concept to keep cans and bottles from being litter. Well, that, and the people who invented pop tops to replace pull tabs. Remember when it was normal to have to be careful on the beach because people had discarded the sharp-edged metal foot-cutters from their beer/coke cans?

  15. When I was a kid there was a $0.02 deposit on a bottle, $0.05 on a quart bottle. The bottles themselves weren’t “recycled”, they were actually reused. Coke bottles went back to Coke, Pepsi back to Pepsi; all to be cleaned and refilled. When a company changed their logo you might still get a bottle that sported the old logo. Then they came out with the “No Deposit, No Return” bottles. I don’t know what changed but it became cheaper for a company to make new bottles than to reuse them. Litter increased. Now we “recycle”. The bottles aren’t reused. Unintended consequences.

  16. Wow, you still have proper glass bottles with a few pennies deposit on them? We used to have those in the UK when I was a sprog, and it was a much-appreciated way of augmenting your pocket money – even more so for those kids enterprising enough to scale the wall behind the grocery and (ahem) “liberate” a few more bottles to take in the front. All we have now is empty plastic bottles kicking around the streets – no cash value, therefore just litter. Well done USA for not going the same way.

  17. many years ago i fell for the bs of recycling plastic bottles. i saved them in the extremely large trash bags. after a while the wife put out the word that there were getting to be to many bags in the back yard. so i put a couple of pieces of 4×8 plywood in the back of the pickup for sideboards and loaded it up totaly with bags of bottles.

    now remember this was in the day of $1.10 gas.

    after several hours loading bags in the truck, unloading bags at the local grocery store (thats where the machines for redemption were) and totally filling two machines with chopped bottles i got enough to just barely pay for gas. ~$1.05.

    to hell with it.

    C

  18. When I was living in Michigan in the mid 90s, the retailer we returned our cans to required you to show a receipt showing you had paid a deposit (didn’t have to be from their store) for the number of cans you were asking for a deposit back on. So it would be harder for this kind of fraud to happen if they were doing that. In Texas, they charge a core deposit on every car battery that is sold. If you bring one or more back, you have to show a receipt to get the core charge back. Same principle and it works here.

    On the other hand, you get people like one of my aunts…who went to Michigan to visit her sister. When she drove back to her home in another state, she brought a few drinks in a cooler for the drive home. She spent something like $1.25 to mail back 3 cans to her sister so she could return them for the $0.10 deposit each. Economics wasn’t her strong suit…

  19. What’s that American saw about the Preacher and the Boot-Legger? They need each other don’t they?

  20. Unless the law specifically requires that bottles/cans have been sold in California to recieve the “deposit refund” the activities described in the article are NOT fraud.

  21. Not all that surprising, really. Cross-border shopping occurs all the time. I live in BC, land of high taxes, and the ridiculous carbon tax, and I try to do it whenever I can. By heading South to Washington State, or East to Alberta, a lot of money can be saved. And since many governments aren’t smart enough to reallize when regressive policies or taxes are hurting investment and consumption, most people will undoubtedly choose to shop somewhere else if they feel like they are not getting a fair deal.

  22. tz says:
    October 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm
    Michigan has to accept it if it says MI 10 /c refund – and most producers don’t have different UPC barcodes based on bottler location.
    =======================================================
    Not quite true
    There are plenty of bottles that say MI 10C that are not accepted.
    If the product is not sold in MI, it is not taken back.

    My dad goes to Canada via MI a couple of times a year and gets enough for at least one tank of gas each trip.

  23. TedG says (October 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm): “It couldn’t happen to a nice socialist state.”

    Heh. I live in the People’s Republic of Kalifornia, but I agree completely. Better to have our tax money spent by Nevadans and Arizonans than by our own politicians. At least this “foreign aid” goes to Americans.

    You’re welcome. :-)

  24. Recycling in Reno pays around $0.20/lb. I save up my cans and call this Hispanic dude, who shows up in a big moving van and pays me $1.65/lb. I don’t know what he gets for the cans in CA but it must be worth it to pay me that much in cash and run a truckload up and over Donner Pass 120 miles to Sacramento!

  25. Gunga Din says:
    October 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    When I was a kid there was a $0.02 deposit on a bottle, $0.05 on a quart bottle. The bottles themselves weren’t “recycled”, they were actually reused. Coke bottles went back to Coke, Pepsi back to Pepsi; all to be cleaned and refilled. When a company changed their logo you might still get a bottle that sported the old logo. Then they came out with the “No Deposit, No Return” bottles. I don’t know what changed but it became cheaper for a company to make new bottles than to reuse them. Litter increased. Now we “recycle”. The bottles aren’t reused. Unintended consequences.

    The sorting stage is fairly expensive, as it often can’t be done by machine. You also have to have a method of rejecting any chipped or cracked bottles (which you’ve generally already bought). & washing in 180° water (or otherwise autoclaving) isn’t as cheap as it once was.

    The raw materials for glass are (oddly enough) quite cheap, & the economies of scale work quite favourably in the manufacturing: to make any glass (from a given furnace) at all you have to use a lot of energy, but since you already have a large furnace (because you’re a glass making factory) & it has to be kept hot for weeks anyway, you might as well put out as much stuff as possible.

  26. If California can soak its tax and rate payers a bloody fortune to make a minute dent in global carbon emissions, I see no reason that same logic should not be applied to the global flood of discarded cans and bottles. Bring ‘em on! “Doing good” knows neither borders nor economic constraints!

  27. “Last summer, the state Department of Food and Agriculture counted all vehicles driving into the state with used beverage containers through 16 border stations. The three-month tally was 3,500, including 505 rental trucks filled to capacity with cans.”

    So, all this stuff is being counted and allowed into the state to strip the recycling fund. Why don’t these idiots turn them back or arrest and fine them heavily? It would stop pretty soon if there were no profit. I guess all they’re interested in is the fruit in my lunch bag I’m bringing in from out of state. Who’s ordering them to just take notes and wave them on?

    Dave

  28. The Left Coast will be having many more opportunities for recycling. From the Beeb:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19812373

    Tsunami debris: Oregon braced for winter storms

    Good quick read. Among other things, an entire concrete dock from Japan made the trip.

    Should be some interesting plastic bottles turned in for recycling. Especially when they figure out they’re from Japan, and the hazmat crews are called in to take possession of the radioactive waste. (I’ve seen news footage of beachcombers examining styrofoam chunks with Geiger counters.)

    What caught my eye was the alarming BBC sidebar teaser title: Oregon braced for tsunami debris storms. I was imaging plastic bottles, small foam and wood pieces, and other lightweight stuff raining down after being picked up by violent storms. Hey, you can have fish and frogs raining down, so it’s possible.

  29. Have used a similar system for my own profit: we bought plastic bottles of bottled water, Coke and other drinks without deposit in Belgium and returned them for 25 eurocents just over the border in The Netherlands… That were the same bottles, but nowadays they make a distinction, as the Dutch bottles are more rigid (for obliged reuse) and by giving the Dutch bottles an extra collar, so that the origin is recognized and my profit system doesn’t work anymore…

    In The Netherlands, all soft drink bottles (PET or glass) must be reused, even if recycling is less polluting than reuse for plastic bottles: A diesel truck bringing a full load of bottles in return is already polluting more after 100 km (65 miles) than the manufacturing and recycling or incinerating of the transported bottles. That besides the cleaning which needs to be more rigorous for reuse than for recycling…

    Some long time ago the environmental impact of one-way vs. return bottles was investigated in Flanders/Belgium. Here the results:

    http://www.ping.be/chlorophiles/en/en_pvc_lca_compl.html

  30. No problem. Barcodes will fix everything.
    When I take my 30 ton trailer of cans to the Californian depot we can sip coffee while the scan each can to ensure it is locally purchased. Any which are not can be loaded back on the trailer and I will nip over to Michigan or wherever they are from. Half a dozen cans for Michigan, six or seven for Florida…

  31. Steve C says:
    October 8, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    So you liberated bottles from the storage out the back of the off door too?

    DaveE.

  32. On the positive side, I have noticed that the homeless are making a pretty penny on the deposits! ;-)

  33. Germany has an even more fun thing, swiss citizens bringing their non-decomposing plastic trash across the border to use the “yellow bag” recycling scheme to pay lower waste bin fees. They pay by weight and don’t have a recycling system set up. On the other hand the same plastic bottles bought in nearby France and the very same bottles bought in Germany are not interchangeable in the deposit refund machine because only the one sold in Germany has the proper logo on the label.

  34. Gunga Din’s comment recalled the times I lived in Minnesota. We’d buy cases of beer in long neck returnable bottles. Pay the deposit when we bought the case. When we came back for another, turn in the old case of empties and not get charged the deposit. Local brew pubs here in Oregon and Washington do the same if you want to buy a growler to take home. And in each case the containers would be reused.

    On a related topic, you should see the looks I get from people who are “believers” in recycling when I tell them that under current regulations which either encourage or mandate the practice, the collectors of waste are only required to sort and hold the various material for a specific and rather limited amount of time, after which it gets sent to the same landfill as all of the other garbage.

    How do you know recycling makes sense? When the people collecting your waste start making it as easy as possible for you to do it. Means they have found a market for it. For years recycling yard waste cost you extra each month for the container. You had to specifically ask for one as well. Then one day they showed up free of charge. Not too hard to figure out what changed.

  35. TimiBoy says:
    October 8, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Funny that stupid Greens in America cannot see that in a plce where everything’s close together this was never going to work on a State by State basis,

    It doesn’t stop there. In Washington State and Oregon, the State mandated minimum wage was higher than the surrounding states. (might still be, I haven’t looked lately)

    The result? The drive through order taker job at some fast-food restaurants was outsourced to a call center in Idaho, who would then punch-up the order at the restaurant. (lower minimum wage)

  36. TerryMN says:
    October 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The Expulsive – It isn’t a measure of what the market is paying, rather a state mandated deposit/refund. California charges an extra 5 or 10 cents per can deposit (I don’t know what their particular deposit is) whereas, across the border in Nevada and Arizona, no such deposit is taken or remitted. So – a bunch of non-deposit-paid cans bought in NV or AZ are able to be taken into CA, and the person turning in the cans in CA gets paid the “deposit” (that was never taken in the first place) thus driving the system even more into the red, beyond the program admin costs.

    Well yes, but look on the bright side. California is paying to clean up bottles and cans from Arizona and Nevada. The residents of those states should send California governer Jerry Brown a nice thank you letter.

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