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Deposits on aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles are then redeemed at recycling centres.
The California Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act has been a huge success.Last year, San Francisco recycled 77 per cent of its total waste, and has set itself a zero waste target by 2020.Some of this success is down to innovative policies such as a city-wide kitchen scrap and garden waste collection service, resulting in 20,000 tonnes of high-grade compost a year - much of which ends up spread over the vineyards of Napa.Scavengers who scour the streets of San Francisco for cans and bottles also contribute to this high recycling rate, creating a symbiotic relationship that turns trash into cash and provides an income to some of the city’s estimated 8,640 homeless people.Homeless men and women pushing shopping trolleys loaded with their possessions and empty cans and bottles are now as much a feature of the city as the fog that sweeps in under the Golden Gate Bridge.And although it is illegal, police are reluctant to arrest people for scavenging which can carry a fine of ,000.
Dr Dan Knapp, a sociologist and founder of Urban Ore, a salvage company in Berkeley, said: 'Scavengers are hand separating the recycling before it reaches the depot, and they’re willing to work for almost no money - a dollar an hour on average.
It’s a cheap way to access labour, that’s why it works and why it’s hard to stamp out.
The police don’t want to enforce the law because they know that they’re the working poor trying to make a living and don’t have many alternatives.' The recycling economy But San Francisco’s scavengers are not all homeless or disaffected like Victor and Patrick.
A few steps away from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park lined with eucalyptus and palm trees, a dozen men and women queue with trolleys overflowing with salvaged trash.
At 9.30am they are allowed to start the noisy process of separating the cans, glass and plastic bottles before being weighed.
The Haight Ashbury Neighbourhood Centre (HANC) echoes with the clink of glass and the crunch of cans.