Senator Wiener Announces Bill to Allow Mobile Recycling Redemption in San Francisco

February 16, 2017

Today Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) announced the introduction of legislation to allow San Francisco to pursue a mobile recycling redemption program - specifically, to allow mobile recycling centers to qualify as full recycling centers under California law and thus to relieve surrounding small businesses of the onerous obligation of having to accept recycling for redemption.

Due to the closure of various San Francisco recycling centers in recent years - for example, the centers at the Safeways on Market Street and Webster Street and the center located in Golden Gate Park - small grocery stores are currently required to accept recycling redemptions. This obigation is a huge burden on these small businesses. To address this problem, the City's Department of the Environment has attempted to create a mobile recycling program. However, such a program is prohibited under current state law.

“With our ambitious zero waste goals, San Francisco has long been a national leader in recycling and waste reduction efforts,” said Senator Wiener. "Yet, our dense urban environment has evolved over the decades since the Bottle Bill was passed, and we need to be more flexible in finding solutions to maximize our recycling efforts. Mobile recycling will allow us to continue to promote smart and effective recycling policies, while relieving a burden on our business owners, particularly our small mom-and-pop corner stores that don’t have the capacity or resources to meet the one-size-fits-all obligations of state law.”

Under the 1986 California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act (also known as the Bottle Bill), any beverage dealer, including supermarkets and corner stores, not within one half-mile of a recycling center must redeem empty bottles and cans in-store or pay a $100-per-day in-lieu fee (nearly $40,000 a year). These half-mile “convenience zones” surrounding recycling centers have all but disappeared in San Francisco, where the number of recycling centers has fallen from 35 in 1990 to just seven today.

San Francisco has the lowest recycling zone coverage (7%) of any city in the state. This leaves 579 beverage dealers in San Francisco outside of any “convenience zone” established under the bottle bill, and therefore subject to the requirement to either redeem containers or pay a daily fine. The large majority of these 579 stores are smaller stores. Large supermarkets simply pay the fee and thus are relieved of their obligation to redeem recyclables. Small grocery stores, which are unable to pay this fee, are thus subjected to the crushing burden of having to accept any and all recyclables members of the public bring to them

SB 458 will allow San Francisco to authorize a mobile recycling program that, if it meets certain criteria, will relieve businesses of the collection obligations and financial penalties put on them for existing outside of a convenience zone. The mobile recycling program must be open at least once a week at a number of locations throughout San Francisco and be open for business at least eight hours per day at each location.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment worked with Senator Wiener on this legislation and also is working as part of Governor Brown's effort to revamp and modernize the entire Bottle Bill. According to, Debbie Raphael, the Department's Director:

“We support the Governor’s ongoing efforts to achieve broad-based reform of the California Bottle Bill, which has made California a recycling leader. In order to continue to offer convenient neighborhood recycling options in San Francisco, we need a modernized Bottle Bill that provides greater flexibility and allows for new recycling technology. Senator Wiener’s proposed bill to pilot innovative collection solutions, like mobile recycling sites, will allow cities like San Francisco to meet our recycling objectives and the needs of consumers and small businesses.

Miriam Zouzounis of the Arab American Grocers Association and a member of the San Francisco Small Business Commission said, “We are supportive of a solution coming down from the State level to make California’s recycling laws work better for small business owners. Corner markets are subject not only to San Francisco taxes and fees but have to contend with sting operations and constantly changing compliance demands from Regulatory and State bodies. Bureaucracy and restrictions legislated at both State and City levels in this regard rarely account for the capacity of a small business. Easing the burden on our corner stores through a mobile recycling program like the one proposed by Senator Wiener will remove one of these difficulties from our small businesses.”​

CONTACT: Jeff Cretan,