Testing SF's new BottleBank mobile recycling service reveals delayed payments, location scarcity

Saturday, February 12, 2022
Does SF's new CRV redemption program work? Here's what we found
7 On Your Side tries out the new BottleBank mobile recycling program launched in San Francisco. Here's what to know.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Last week, 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney tested out San Francisco's new bottle and can recycling program. How well did it work?

It was a mixed bag -- literally a mixed recycling bag.

To test out San Francisco's new CRV redemption program, Michael Finney downloaded the SF Bottle Bank app and immediately encountered the first problem. The app was labeled, "Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative."

As it turns out, the cooperative are the guys who designed the app, but this is the San Francisco Bottle Bank's app, which makes it a bit confusing.

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We loaded up our beverage containers and brought them to the recycling center, where the app then checked in our bags of bottles and cans.

The CRV money is transferred directly into your app's account. The correct amount showed up in the app, $2.25. However, as 7 On Your Side told Charles Sheehan from the San Francisco Department of the Environment, the money showed up late.

"The money was supposed to arrive in my account within 3 days, but it took nearly 4," Finney told him. "An hour or two short of four."

"We deposit funds into people's accounts within 72 hours," Sheehan told 7 On Your Side. "We've been about 93% successful. Unfortunately your transaction was not one of them. We had a CalRecycle inspection day so your bag got delayed by one day."

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

The new BottleBank program launched in San Francisco as a convenient way for users to claim cash for recycling, not all San Franciscans feel that way.

Now let's take a look at the SF Bottle Bank website.

It includes a map of the program with dozens of points, making it seem like there is a lot going on. However, the green markers are the only retailers where recycling bags are sold. The red markers are the recycling sites. There are only five shown on this map -- and get this -- most are not really there.

7 On Your Side asked Consumer Watchdog's Jamie Court what he thinks of the program so far.

"Doesn't look like it's doing too good to me," he said.

Court says this is because the new program puts the recycling burden on consumers.

"I mean they're in like two locations for like a few hours every morning, on the weekdays, not the weekends, so most people aren't going to be using this facility," he said.

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More importantly, Court says, "It doesn't replace every retailer in San Francisco who was required to take back cans and bottles."

There is actually a Saturday morning availability out at Stonestown, but the website map does not reflect the reality of current drop-off sites.

"We do have to update our website and we will get working on that," Sheehan says. "But as I have noted, we are going to be opening locations throughout the city."

Sheehan says this is a pilot program, and more sites will be rolling out soon. Court says there still won't be as many sites as there used to be when the law required retailers to take back their returnable containers.

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

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