The Good Life Grocery, located on 20th Street, is facing fines of up to $3,100 a month for not complying with the California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act.

The law, adopted in 1986, was intended to “…make redemption and recycling convenient to consumers… the legislature hereby urges cities and counties…to act favorably on the siting of multi-material recycling centers, reverse vending machines, mobile recycling units, or other types of recycling opportunities, as necessary for consumer convenience, and the overall success of litter abatement and beverage container recycling in the state,” according to the original legislature.

Under the law, the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) designates “convenience zones,” in which significant-sized grocery stores must ensure that consumers can easily return containers with the California Redemption Value label. Supermarkets can either pay a daily fee of $100 or accept containers from consumers. Some stores are exempt from the requirement because of their proximity to convenient recycling from nearby zones.

Though just 1,200 square feet, Good Life qualifies as a supermarket under the Litter Reduction Act because it grosses more than $2 million in sales annually. The only other nearby grocery stores that fall under the law are Whole Foods and Safeway. Whole Foods has opted to pay the daily fee. Safeway was recently sent a letter of non-compliance from CalRecycle, according to communications director Mark Oldfield.

“It creates problems for the smaller operators if the major players are not willing to set up recycling centers, or get that zone served,” Oldfield explained. “The situation in San Francisco is pretty unique. There are a lot of unserved zones because the major players have elected to pay the fee instead of set up convenient recycling for customers.”

San Francisco has the state’s highest rate of unserved convenience zones. The City has 58 convenience zones, 38 of which are unserved. Statewide, there are 4,072 zones, with 516 unserved.

Kayren Hudiburgh, co-owner of The Good Life Grocery, is upset that she’s being urged to sign an affidavit that states she’ll comply with the law. According to Hudiburgh, her 20th Street location doesn’t have enough room to house recyclables, nor is it profitable enough to afford the daily fee. Good Life operates a larger market in Bernal Heights.

Hudiburgh explained that most stores in San Francisco have problems maintaining recycling collection centers. She said that Costco, Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Food Co, and Whole Foods are all complaining about losing revenue and time due to the state requirement. “Everyone’s talking about how awful this law is,” Hudiburgh said.

“My lease states that I can’t do anything on the property that might devalue it. I have no way of complying with the law. To house containers would probably be against health inspection regulations because of the proximity to food,” Hudiburgh explained.

Hudiburgh hopes that Recology’s Seventh Street location will become a recycling center, which would exempt the 20th Street store from having to accept containers.

Originally Published November 2015: The Potrero View 

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