Recycling Advocates Protest City Hall Earth Day Breakfast

As an Earth Day breakfast was under way this morning at San Francisco City Hall, a group of recyclers, environmentalists and other community advocates were protesting closures of community-based recycling centers.

A group from the San Francisco-based Coalition on Homelessness rallied on the City Hall steps this morning, calling on the mayor to step in to stop recycling center evictions.

In the past year, five centers at grocery stores, where residents can turn in cans for California Redemption Value, or CRV, money, have been shut down, according to protest organizers.

As part of the state’s so-called “Bottle Bill,” a law enacted in the late 1980s, grocery stores must offer container redemption sites or pay a $100 a day fee.

The homeless advocacy group has teamed up with local environmentalists, such as members from CleanPower SF, working to cut down waste and pollution, which is the focus of Earth Day celebrations around the world today.

Protesters decried the recycling center closures as the city touts its goal of reaching zero waste by 2020.

To make that goal, recycling advocate Scott Nelson said, “we need more recycling centers,” not less.

The trend of pushing out community-based recycling centers comes from what protesters said is pressure from developers and residents moving into neighborhoods where homeless people drop off cans.

The recycling center at the Safeway grocery store parking lot at Church and Market streets, run by SF Community Recyclers, was served an eviction notice last August.

Center supporters have pushed for an extension until June 30 and hope to reverse the eviction, Coalition on Homelessness spokeswoman Lisa Marie Alatorre said.

Meanwhile, the center remains open and bustling as one of the few remaining sites offering recycling services in a central part of the city.

Many of the remaining recycling centers are in the Bayview District and other southern parts of the city, which Alatorre said is difficult for homeless and other low-income residents to reach on public transit or by foot.

Alatorre said the slow disintegration of recycling centers—there are 16 left in San Francisco—is essentially cutting off the lifeline to some of the city’s lowest income residents, who depend on cash from cans.

A hearing on recycling and its impact on low-income residents will be held at the San Francisco Board of Supervisor’s Neighborhood Services and Public Safety committee meeting on May 15.

Sasha Lekach, Bay City News

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