Sebastopol gets 1st of Sonoma County’s 10 new can, bottle redemption sites
You wouldn’t think finding a new place to redeem recyclable bottles and cans would be accompanied by so much emotion.
But many who came to the new buyback site in Sebastopol appeared sincerely thrilled to have a convenient new spot to earn a few bucks in exchange for the containers they had saved up.
Pam Nilsson was an example. A resident of Blue Spruce Mobile Home Lodge near Graton, Nilsson collects and redeems beverage containers to support her neighborhood community garden.
“I was so happy a couple of weeks ago to find out about this recycling center,” she said. “It’s a shame that it’s coming so late, because so much plastic has been generated in the past two years.”
Dennis Blong, project manager with Petaluma-based United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay, said that’s how it’s been since the center launched in mid-March.
People have gradually discovered it’s there and are just glad about it, returning tens of thousands of containers subject to the state’s 5- and 10-cent California Redemption Value, or CRV.
“It’s really been positive feedback,” he said.
He and Leslie Lukacs, executive director at Zero Waste Sonoma, hope it’s just the beginning of a more robust redemption system in Sonoma County.
But they also hope it contributes to repair of a broken statewide program that has lost much of the infrastructure through which Californians redeem the nickel and dime credit owed to them for buying soda, beer, bottled water, sports drinks and other qualifying beverages.
The Sebastopol center is the first of up to 10 redemption sites expected to open around the county over the next few years under a $1 million grant from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, or CalRecycle.
Five California communities received grants under the first round of funding of a pilot project designed to boost access to beverage container redemption sites to help rebuild and improve a system intended to keep recyclables from the landfill and channel them instead into production of new containers.
Blong’s nonprofit organization, which has run the recycling center in Petaluma for three decades, has partnered on the project with regional agency Zero Waste Sonoma.
The first station opened in mid-March at the Community Church of Sebastopol and operates 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Blong said he hopes to have the second site opened by May at the Healdsburg city corporation yard, which will be open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Lukacs said two sites in Santa Rosa are in negotiation, as well.
Plans eventually include mimicking bag-drop models already in use in states like Oregon that would allow consumers to leave bags marked with bar-coded tags or something similar at a drop-off site for processing in Petaluma. Redemption credit would be processed electronically over 72 hours, instead of paid out immediately, Blong said.
The system is currently prohibited by the state’s bottle bill, which requires redemption sites to be staffed, but is being permitted by pilot project participants, including in San Francisco, to see how it might work in California.
It also requires an expensive piece of machinery that includes scanning to ensure the contents of returned bags are what they are purported to be, which in turn requires sufficient volume at future redemption sites planned for Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Sonoma, Sebastopol, Healdsburg and Cloverdale.
Sebastopol residents Jim and Gretchen Carrigan were among the early arrivals at the Sebastopol center and required three trips to exchange all the bottles and cans they and Jim Carrigan’s mother had accumulated over the past year and a half.
Grateful for a nearby place to return them for the deposit they’d paid without risking a very long line in Santa Rosa, they were in good cheer while unloading the back of their truck for what, on this occasion, was about $78 — “a little money in our pocket,” Gretchen Carrigan said.
“It’s going back to the community in a way that’s really needed,” she said, “and the fact that they use the United Cerebral Palsy of the North Bay is so cool.”
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.
Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat
I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment.