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May 22, 2009

Recycling at RePlanet

This will probably not be an earth-shattering post for those of you that conserve already, but I had an epiphany of sorts today--I took over ten dollars in cans and bottles to the recycling center nearest me today.

I've recycled my own cans for years, but usually only occasionally and in small amounts--a bucket the size of a banker's box. I do have city offered recycling at my current house, so I don't need to go to the trouble of doing it myself just to be kind to the Earth, but it bothers me to subsidize someone else doing it when I could be getting the refund.

I also put a recycling location finder in the sidebar of my blog.

Recently they've closed at least half the RePlanet centers near me, leaving only bulk-per-pound places that are generally smellier and gross and for which you have to have large amounts. It took me several months to find another place with a mechanized can counter. These pay higher amounts, the full CRV (California Refund Value), than selling in bulk by weight.

Meanwhile, I had to find a storage solution for all the accumulating recycling. The only space I could come up with was the foot-wide gap between the shed and the fence in my backyard. This felt a little hillbilly-ish to me, hiding things behind the shed. And the squirrels got into my bags and tore several apart, so I had to re-bag most of them yesterday. Today's stash represented about three months' worth of cans from my single-person household and occasional guests.

The lines outside my recycling center when I arrived today

I had a long wait in full sun before I could even start all my work. In fact, it left me a touch sunburnt. Rivers of sweat trickled down my back as I fed cans into the machine. The automated machines are notoriously sensitive, and reject items regularly for no apparent reason.

The automated can counting machine

There's generally only one attendant managing the whole center. The attendant handles the by-weight accounting manually in the center of everything, so there's motion and banging all around you regardless of what line you're in. RePlanet used to have trash cans for whatever they wouldn't take, and hand sanitizer available when you were done. This was a real convenience that kept my car from getting sticky afterward. They've now cut out both those services.

Bulk by-weight bins

To their credit, if the by-weight demand is slow and the attendant is available, they'll let you count and sort your own cans manually in the bulk area in groups of 50, paying you the full CRV as if you'd waited for the machine to be free. But you do have to sort your own plastic, metal, and glass in this case, and they're supposed to limit you to 50 cans this way. I did 50 cans this way today while waiting in line for the machine, so that did shorten my workload a bit.

It took me about two hours to earn my ten dollars and suntan today, so I'm not sure it's worth it to do this regularly, especially when I figure the damage of accumulated dirt in my car. What are your experiences with can recycling? What do you do with the money you make from it?

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