SF BottleBank recycling program spent $4M to return less than $220K in CRVs to consumers

Friday, June 9, 2023
SF recycling program spent $4M to return less than $220K in CRVs
SF BottleBank has returned $180,000 in CRVs to consumers. But does the cost of the program outweigh the benefit?

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco's mobile recycling pilot project, BottleBank, is now attracting recyclers -- and happy ones at that.

I met Lawrence Wong at one of the centers last Friday. "I love it," he says. "We used to drop them off at recycle bins and people just steal them from our house, and its great -- just put them in the bag and drop them off when I am here shopping."

I was at the recycling center to speak with the spokesperson for the San Francisco Environment Department, Charles Sheehan.

RELATED: San Francisco launches anticipated mobile recycling service, but not everyone is happy

"We processed about 50,000 bags and recycled about 3.4 million bottles and cans since the start of the program," he tells 7 On Your Side. "We have returned $180,000 back to consumers that would otherwise be stuck in Sacramento -- the five cents and 10 cents they put down -- but here in San Francisco we are putting it back in people's pockets."

Where Sheehan sees a successful ramp up of a new program, Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court sees nothing but failure.

"It's a complete bust, I mean, after 15 months we know the numbers," Court says. "So it may sound great, they recycled 3.3 million containers, until you find out they spent $4 million to do it. They're spending 79 cents to return a nickel to consumers. The program doesn't work."

Sheehan says cost per container is not an accurate representation of the program, but did not dispute the cost.

RELATED: SF BottleBank reports low collection numbers as advocates say it favors grocers, not consumers

Court says every day, that the pilot program is allowed to operate is a day grocers dodge responsibility.

"So this is the only recycling program for CRV in all of San Francisco. It's replaced all of the mandates for the supermarkets and grocery stores and liquor stores that had to take back in the past," Court says. "So, I don't think there's any way you can look at the numbers and say it's succeeding."

We will let Sheehan have the final word.

"It is growing each month. I sent you that chart you can see the curve is going up and up and up", Sheehan says. "When we look at viability are our numbers going up or are they going down? They're going up."

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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