My compassionate friend Lance Navarro shares his thoughts on something I witnessed when living briefly in San Francisco.
I’ll let Lance explain:
“Anyone who lives in or has visited SF, has seen the vast number of people who make a living (as meager as that might be) off of collecting bottles and cans. I was moved one day when I met a man lugging 2 HUGE bags, who stopped me to ask where he could trade them in. I got on my phone and found a website with a map. His exhaustion turned to despair when I let him know the nearest one was over 2 miles away, in the outer Mission. I vocalized my compassion for how many centers have been closed down in the last few years and wished him well.
Did you know that all grocery stores in SF with over $2 million in sales are required to have a collection center or pay $100/day or $36,500 a year in fines? Well, that is the law, however they would rather pay the fine that deal with the “blight” and “annoyance” of people coming in to trade in their cans.
Walgreens has become the first major retailer to decide to collect rather than pay the fine. With over 30 locations, it would have meant a total fine of over $1 million dollars, so I am sure that was part of their strategy, however, either way it provides these hard working people with more options on where they can go.
I know that their presence, pushing carts down sidewalks and lugging their bags on Muni, can be an annoyance, but it’s in these situations that we need to demonstrate more compassion and understand the solution isn’t getting rid of them, but rather, trying to make their life a little easier. Because, it is still work, no matter how desperate or low-paying. Full-time can collectors often work over 8 hours a day, tracking across the city to fill up 3 or 4 large bags with 700-1000 cans, simply so they can make $40-50.
About 3 years ago I started talking to a few people about making a documentary about can collectors. Follow them around, hear about their life, social relationships and work strategies. See how they live and perhaps inspire some people with their stories. When I realized how much making a decent short film costs, I became discouraged, but I want to put it back out there to the universe and see what happens.
Some reform needs to take place that will provide greater ease for people who make a living this way. I think perhaps grocery stores need to pay a higher fine than $100/day and the money raised should support a mobile can exchange unit with planned and regular stops around the city, closest to these populations.
If you’ve taken time to read this, thank you. Too many of my well thought out posts go ignored because there isn’t a half naked pic beneath it. 😉
So again, thank you for taking the time. Please comment, I’d like to know your thoughts, opinions and ideas.”
For more articles by Lance, you can check out his website: http://www.lancenavarro.com/
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