As San Francisco evicts recycling centers and blocks new ones from opening, the owner of a Bayview facility is about to take his redemption show on the road.
“If we cannot go closer to the people, we have to bring the people closer to us,” Ors Csaszar said of his plan to launch a recycling shuttle service.
Csaszar owns the 20,000-square-foot facility Our Planet Recycling. In July, his plan to open a second location, in South of Market, was shot down by neighbors.
The bus service launch comes as The City's recycling redemption centers have been shuttered at various locations in recent years, falling from 35 in 1990 to 13 today, which has made The City one of the worst service areas in the state. The facilities have faced criticism by some residents for attracting homeless people, litter and crime. The lack of service means hundreds of small businesses that sell beverage containers could be on the hook to start collecting the recyclables, under state law AB 2020, but that's something city officials are hoping to prevent.
Csaszar said he will launch his shuttle service Sept. 29, starting with stops in Chinatown and upper Market Street, where a recycling center was recently evicted by Safeway. He said he wants to expand the service to locations around The City, but will do so based on demand. People can suggest locations on his website.
“Nobody has done this before — it has never happened in the United States,” Csaszar said. "I don't know if it's going to work or not. We're going to take a chance.”
The bus will be free, but with several caveats.
Riders will need to have at least a 32-gallon bag filled with recyclable material and give the driver a $3 deposit, which is returned to the rider at the recycling plant.
“We purchased the largest school bus we could find,” Csaszar said of the coach that he bought from the “Terminator” movie production that filmed in San Francisco last month.
The seats were removed from one side of the bus to allow room for the recyclable materials people are transporting, leaving 28 seats.
Csaszar said he was told by Muni officials that he could use white zones to pick up and drop off riders, which he intends to do.
Another issue facing recyclers is that Muni frowns upon large bags on its buses. Csaszar said some of his customers have received citations.
“Muni doesn't want to see bags,” he said. “Most of the time, they won't let people on the bus with the big bags. Many of the people are low-income people who don't have a car or truck to come to the recycling centers.”
Muni spokesman Paul Rose said riders are not allowed to block walkways or take up seats with large bags nor have leaky bags. If they do, they could be cited by transit-fare inspectors. Rose said this is for safety and health hazard reasons.
Csaszar's service seemingly won't improve The City's recycling service rate under state law. But Debbie Raphael, the new director of the Department of the Environment, is in talks with the Board of Supervisors, grocery stores and recyclers to come up with a plan to boost access to facilities in a way that would not create quality-of-life issues.
Raphael said she wants a draft plan by the end of the year and it may include seeking changes to the state's beverage recycling law to allow for more flexibility.
The law creates so-called convenience zones of a half-mile radius around grocery stores for recycling centers. San Francisco is failing to serve nearly 60 percent of those areas, four times higher than Los Angeles. If grocery stores don't fulfill the need, then the onus falls to small businesses. Grocery stores can pay in-lieu fees of $36,000 annually. It's unclear how many do that at this time, which is something Raphael is trying to figure out.
“I'm asking them to come to the table with an open mind,” she said. “We don't know what the solution will look like in San Francisco.”
Raphael added that she is asking the state to “give us some time … before you descend on our small businesses.”
CalRecycle spokesman Mark Oldfield said that “we are providing technical advice on how to resolve this in an elegant way. With a few choicely located recycling centers, this could probably be resolved.”
All aboard the recycling shuttle
The bus is slated to begin service Sept. 29, with pickups at two locations:
– 1431 Stockton St. (at Card Alley)
Pickup times: 5:15 a.m., 6:15 a.m.
– 2029 Market St. (at Dolores Street)
Pickup times: 2 p.m., 4 p.m.