San Francisco’s large swaths of unserved recycling convenience zones — shown in blue — put more pressure on the recycling centers shown and encircled in green. (CalRecycle)
By Thomas K. Pendergast
(Originally published June 23, 2014, on SFBay, a news website for the San Francisco Bay Area.)
If the recycling center in the Safeway parking lot near the intersection of Market and Church streets closes at the end of this month, as scheduled, 118 smaller “mom n’ pop” markets in the area might have to start offering recycling services.
The supermarket chain has the option of hosting “reverse vending” machines to offer recycling services, or pay the state $100 per store, per day to avoid this duty.
Safeway management is contemplating using a reverse vending machine at its Market Street store, like the one now used at its store on 7th Avenue and Cabrillo Street.
If they do, the smaller stores will likely remain exempt from a 1986 law — commonly called the California “bottle bill” — requiring markets or stores which sell drinks in recyclable bottles and cans to offer recycling services.
On the other hand, if Safeway decides it’s easier to pay $36,500 per year than bother with the machine, the responsibility under the law will fall to smaller markets in the store’s immediate vicinity.
While reverse vending machines meet the law’s requirements, they have limited capacity and cannot handle nearly the same volume in the same amount of time as a dedicated recycling center. Each individual can or bottle must be placed in the machine separately, as opposed to large bags full of recyclables being weighed at once.
Plus, when the bins get full, a store employee must empty them — except for the glass bin. When the glass bottle bin fills up, it must be emptied by a NexCycle company representative, often the following morning, effectively shutting down the service for glass bottles that day.
With the recent removal of recycling services at the Safeway on La Playa near Ocean Beach, and no indication at this point which option Safeway will take for its Market Street store, it’s unclear how many more small markets will ultimately be joining the 191 throughout The City that must either offer recycling or pay $36,500 annually to get off the hook.