"The municipality problem began to mushroom on us," said David F. Little, vice president of Irvine-based 20/20 Recycle Centers, one of the state's largest recyclers. "That was an incredible problem for a long time--many weeks. The same with the landlord problem. It's been much more difficult than anyone realized or anticipated."
As the deadline neared, 20/20 was still struggling to open the final 190 of its 815 centers. Although all of its centers were expected to open on time, about 30% of them are "alternative centers" using tables and garbage-size plastic cans, Little said, because landlord and zoning disputes had still not been resolved.
"We're talking about creating a brand new industry in the state of California," he said.
The question is whether, with small profit margins and big payrolls, they can survive. For instance, 20/20 Recycle Centers, a new company opened by Canada-based Agra Industries Ltd., will employee 1,200 people, Little said.
The company has committed $11 million to the project, and Little is optimistic. "We believe in the economics of the program," he said. "We're ready to go into the marketing phase, and that will really start to make the centers work."
But Griffin, who has helped to create about 100 Reynolds Aluminum Recycling centers in Southern California, said the 2,500 state zones has led to an oversaturation of the industry. "The real test will be after January," he predicted, "when we're seeing who survives and who doesn't."