Oct 9 - SF Recycling Center Closures Impact the Poor

Priceonomics' in-depth investigation into the recent closure of recycling centers in San Francisco reveals the disproportionate impact those closures will have on low-income residents who rely on them as a source of income.

In addition to the homeless, low-income families, small businesses and victims of the recession collect cans and bottles to redeem for the CRV. All of the recycling centers that have closed this year are centralized, located in areas where those without cars could access them.

Safeway and SF city officials have claimed that curbside recycling is sufficient to collect bottles and cans. However, according to CalRecycle, only 8% of beverage containers are redeemed at curbside while the majority is redeemed at buyback center or supermarket site.

But curbside recycling is sufficient only for those rich enough not to care about the redemption value of cans. As Joe Rice of the Market Street center put it, "Curbside doesn’t put money in grandmothers’ pockets." And as many beverages are consumed outside the home, recycling centers are still crucial to San Francisco’s stated goal of zero waste by 2020.

Compared to the rest of the state, which offers a recycling center for every 16,000 residents, San Francisco lags behind with only one for every 38,000 residents. And, since recycling centers are where the majority of people redeem their CRV, these closures will only continue to underserve SF residents.

In an economy that continues to be hardest on the poor, it’s immoral to cut off a source of legitimate income that has also been proven to help reduce litter.

Many low income families will lose a crucial source of income as a result. One study undertaken in Santa Barbara found that families earning under $10,000 a year made, on average, $340 redeeming scavenged empties. "I don’t know where to go when this closes," a mother of four redeeming her families’ bottles and cans told us. "I used to go to the centers near Geary and Broadway, but they closed. The only places left are so far away it’s not even worth the trip."

If you believe in preserving the right of the poor to support their families and want to protect the integrity of the Bottle Bill, sign the petition to save San Francisco recycling centers.

Photo credit: Alex Mayyasi/Priceonomics

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