Homeless Recycling Collectors Screwed by California Law

A misguided new California law prevents people from selling recycling if they do not have a valid state ID card.

On the rare sunny San Francisco day, people don’t flock to the beach as much as you’d expect-they head to the inland parks since often the beach is still cold. Dolores Park, one of the most popular sunny day hang-outs, will be jam packed on these days, leading to overflowing trashcans and recycling bins.[social_buttons]

Luckily, there seem to always be a loyal handful of people wandering through the park collecting beer cans and water bottles from the partiers and picnickers. What’s their motivation for their almost surreal helpfulness? Well, a trade-in value of about 5-cents for each bottle or can.

But now the state is preventing many of these people from making their meager living.

Proponents of the law say that drug addicts use the rebate credit to feed their addictions, which very well may be the case. But really, is this the best way to help those people fight their addictions? Seems like a pretty backwards, mean-spirited idea to me, not to mention that many people who are collecting cans are simply trying to feed themselves. The law does nothing but make it harder for people to actually find a way out of homelessness.

And what about the environmental impact of the law? These people walk through the streets and pick recyclable items out of the public trash cans, saving them from landfills. People doing this should be encouraged, not made to jump through hoops in order to cash out their cans.

Not only will they now need to show a valid state ID card, but to exchange aluminum cans and other metallic cans, they will have their photograph and thumb-print taken, and then money will be withheld for 3 days. This action is due to metal theft from construction sites or vehicle parts, which is a legitimate problem-but why not exempt those who are merely cashing in aluminum cans?

Some San Francisco residents complain that scavengers pick through their recycling bins when they are out for collection, but again, I don’t understand what the problem is here. San Francisco, along with many other Californian cities, pays to have their recycling sorted. The homeless men and women who collect from the bins are doing the same service and probably lessening the sorting costs for the city in the process.

Photo Credit: Essygie on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

33 thoughts on “Homeless Recycling Collectors Screwed by California Law”

  1. I dentity theft….selling your information from your garbage. im not gonna do anything to clean my garbage so a homel3ss person can go through it in peace and get my discarded trash. I cant wait for the trash guy to give him stuff with my name on it…absurd…..really going through my garbage im coming swinging.

  2. I dentity theft….selling your information from your garbage. im not gonna do anything to clean my garbage so a homel3ss person can go through it in peace and get my discarded trash. I cant wait for the trash guy to give him stuff with my name on it…absurd…..really going through my garbage im coming swinging.

  3. This law Is BS. I had some old Aluminum rims sitting for ever.
    Drove dow to Arron Recycling in Oakland Ca.
    For got my wallet. I had my debit card with a picture and valid car insurance and registration. NO SOAP. It is bull $^*#!
    They wanted a Drivers License, no other Id taken.

    Well maybe I don’t want them to have my address, my DL # My age, etc…
    What is some one hacked into the computer system. Finds out I just got 4 grand for scrap, knows where I live. These places are usually in bad down troden areas. I can’t beleive for a minute my personal info would be secure in their Computer system!

    Some asshole in the Capital, who has been bought buy big constuction did this to protect them and screw the rest of us.

  4. The Inebriates have no Problem finding recycling centers.They are not required to have an ID.That law is for BULK aluminum only in the city.Other cities may be different.I want to open a recycling center in the third district that serves the Poor Residents of China Town.They are tired of going all the way up the hill because of politics and NIMBYism.The NIMBYS always blame the Homeless for everything.The behavior of a few miscreants sets the tone for way too many poor citizens.I did not have a clue until I lived it.Now I have respect for those little old Asian ladies carrying cans and bottles all the way up the hill just to deal with the hate and the inebriates.The Empire Liquor Store gets a huge cut of the POOR bottle collectors money just cashing the check.Anything over 2.50 is in Check form.The Liquor store takes at least 75 cents.They are criminal.
    The Recyling centr did have Safeway cashing the checks until there was a scandal.
    Now the Clients pay for the Bad behavior of Bad Non Profits.
    I want to open one close to the SAFEWAYS on the Embarcadero.There is Room along the waterfront.The NIMBYS may relax when they realize an ASSHOLE LIKE ME is in Charge and will not let the DRUNKS IN.The TEETOTALERS recycling will be born.
    Recycling Politics are interesting.
    The Recycling center at the Park that was closed payed CASH.They were as fair as can be.The clients however were a mixture of poor and Inebriates.I would cut the inebriates off.
    Non Profits should never enable BOOZERS to their death.


  5. I don’t know the exact statistics and /or percentages ,but I do know a lot of those homeless people have mental problems , such as scizophrenia (Don’t have a clue if that is spelled correctly) , an illness that is characterized by fear and mistrust of others which prevents them from holding a normal job and living a normal life. I guarantee you they will not subject themselves to being photographed and finger printed, neither would I! One of the first things that the police do when they arrest you (after the obligatory beating), is what???? Photograph you and fingerprint you ! So why should any citizen , who is not breaking the law, be subjected to this! No reason—-except one…. This country is slowly but surely turning into one where we have no freedoms , we are being dictated to , more and more everyday. Example: “The Real ID” legislation passed without even being read by most voting on it , it was tagged onto funding for the war. We don’t lose our freedom all at once, we would cry out against that, but instead it just trickles away a little at a time and no one seems to notice. Today it’s the homeless guy, tomorrow it may be you!

  6. The $50 limit is definitely a good way to help prevent this from affecting homeless persons. However it is quite likely that a homeless person will come in with more than $50 of cans and so might be subject to the law. The best solution to this would be to simply exempt cans/bottles entirely from the law.
    I do understand how the stealing of metal from work sites could harmful, and I’m sure the laws were enacted in good faith.
    There are already many laws on the books that attack homeless people (it is illegal to feed them in many major cities). Therefore it is not unreasonable to think that there might have been a reason behind not exempting cans/bottles.

  7. Many good points risen against this idiotic law. Here are my few:
    1. The homeless (more than nough said)

    2. ID Theft, I went recyle cans and bottles i felt they had not reason to get my Driver’s license #, Name and Address. 3 key pieces of info for ID theft. THe little shack where they store this personal information doesn’t look to secure.

    3. What about youths (under 18 with no license or ID), How do you encourage them to make a little cash and do a little work so as to go themselves for the pride of receiving cash for what they worked for? “Parents” have to escort them now? Not exactly a way to teach youths a little self reliance.

    4. Making a process harder only encourages crimal activity to be more creative and find other methods to do malicous things. How about just taking all the stolen stuff to another state where this BS doesn’t exist. Now you increase uncessary traffic on the roads. Making it harder and making the rest of us “fingerprint” to turn in some cans and bottles is rediculous.

    5. Where is the petition to sign to get this repealed?

  8. Another fine example of “one step forward, two steps back”! I can see the need for the new laws when it comes to certain metals, namely copper, especially when the refund over $50. BUT – in regard to aluminum cans, and all items where the consumer is forced to pay a CRV deposit, imposing a 3 day wait period is a downright crime! What a rediculous OVER DONE law! Why do lawmakers and politicians chronically overthink and over regulate so many things?? They ought to be ashamed of themselves!

  9. You might want to do just the tiniest bit of research before reporting stuff like this. As another poster already stated, this law isn’t designed to target homeless people who earn money from recycling, but rather people who are stealing metals from vacant or occupied buildings, construction sites, schools and churches, and even live power plants!

    California IDs cost $22 but you can go to any social service agency and it get for a reduced cost.

    And this law only kicks into effect at $50.00 or more, which means that a homeless person would have to show up with 1,000 bottles or more for this law to effect them.

  10. I live in West Oakland. Let me tell you why this is a good law.

    In California’s poor urban neighborhoods, metals are routinely stolen from vacant homes, jobsites, off of trucks, and even from occupied homes. Scrappers sell their metals to recycling companies who don’t care where it came from. These companies willingly purchase stolen goods.

    What’s worse is that a great many of these scrappers are using their haul to purchase heroin, which is down to below $20 per dose.

    Furthermore, most California cities have adequate food programs for the homeless, along with supplying other basic needs.

    Essentially, what this law does is make it harder to steal metal and sell it for drug money.

    Don’t tell me I’m being callous. I live in a neighborhood where this problem happens many times a day. The law is necessary.

  11. And another thing:
    There’s no way the can collectors (at least the ones I’ve seen) are junkies. I’m sorry, but the only ones I’ve ever seen are 70 year-old osteoperosis-riddled asian women, sometimes pushing their grandkids in strollers in front of the cart (yay early instilled work ethic!). The junkies and drunks are too strung out to do anything requiring manual labor (thus the whole “no job” thing)… they’re the panhandlers.

  12. Sure, but the reality of bum bottle-collecting is that it raises the cost of garbage collection (when bums are being paid for pulling cans, usually, let’s be honest, usually, from recycling bins that would be collected And Recycled anyway), which then increases the cost of utilities paid by residents. I live in the bay area, and am woken up at least a couple times a week early morning by some woman with a rickety shopping cart rummaging through bottles next to my building. All that said, Can-Poachers do work for their five cent deposits (albeit needless work which city workers are paid to do). It’s gross, it takes a lot of time, there’s not a whole lot to show for it, and they’re not freaking asking me for my money on the sidewalk. And I appreciate that.

  13. I did read that the law only kicked in after 50 dollars. If this is true, for those collecting cans and bottles, that would be a relatively manageable. They’d still be paid in cash for bags and cartfulls with no id required.
    I do hope that in the meantime, while this is dealt with and hopefully improved for these people, that the collection stations are understanding of these peoples’ situations.

  14. Man oh man oh man, you know what junkies do when they don’t have a legal means of getting money to feed their habits? At least this way you’re looking at less “real” crime impacting on clean society, some people think with their ass.
    I thought California was progressive….

  15. Honestly, this is pathetic. Leave people alone. The author makes good points, especially the last one about it not mattering if the homeless or underemployed dig through recycling (neatly). Lawmakers should get a clue.

  16. Yeah, it’s a pretty lame thing to do. I always try to keep my glass separated from the rest of my recycling so that those who dig through my trash every Sunday night won’t have such a hard time finding it. Every point you’ve made I can get completely behind.

  17. Why must people be so rude on the internet? (I’m talking to you, ian and bla.)

    I agree, this law doesn’t make sense. My impression, upon reading your post, Alex, was not that you are whining about this legislation. Rather, you were questioning the decision-makers, or the Deciders, as it were, because the time they spend on seemingly pointless projects such as the one described are floated through on our tax dollars. If we’re paying for it, we have every right to question it. Thanks for your commentary.

    Nils, I agree with you, too. Vagrants get the shaft fo sho.

  18. Well sure, this law is bad for homeless people, but what amount others? I personally wouldn’t bother to go through getting all those deposits back if I had to get a photo and a thumbprint. Not to mention I wouldn’t get my couple of bucks until 3 days later. They can keep their change for all I care.

  19. California is a gestapo state run by the son of a gestapo officer. What do you expect, compassion? decency? Not from those materialists.

  20. Although… really… think about it.
    They’re passing these laws so the homeless people don’t get drugs?
    Even if that is what they’re doing, is a homeless person getting drugs really so bad? Their life is in the gutter, they’ve lost everything, if they want something to make themselves feel a little better, if even for a little bit, shouldn’t they be allowed to ease their own suffering?

  21. If you’ve spent any time at all in SF you would know that sunshine most certainly does not equal warm weather.

    Also, this law is fucked, although I suspect, like most laws which attempt to stifle a certain activity, that this will merely result in a black market of recycling traders, paying the homeless less than what their metal is worth then bringing it to the redemption centers themselves and making a handy profit off the hard work of unfortunate vagrants.

  22. Okay, let’s revise that to “rare hot San Francisco day”

    You know the days I am talking about, right? When Dolores Park is so crowded you can hardly navigate around the blankets on the grass?

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