Can handlers dealt crushing blow


Imagine the frustration of residents bent on doing their part to recycle, reducing the city’s burden on the Calabasas Landfill and tidying up the planet.

The can banks, recycling machines, that once graced the front of Hughes market, are history. Gone. Toast.

Removed last week by 20/20 Recycling, which contracted with Hughes (now Ralphs) to provide the service, the banks had stood cheek by jowl with the Glacier Water machine for as long as most folks can remember. A company spokesperson said the contract had expired but declined to explain if Ralphs had decided not to renew.

Manger Lee Ford said Saturday, “They have removed the old banks, and another company will be bringing in new ones. It was a corporate decision.”

Early last week, the machines had ceased to operate, and a cardboard sign over the plastic bottle bank read, “Out of Order.”

“The machines were going, then they weren’t going, then they were going again,” Ford said in frustration. “20/20 Recycling finally notified us that they were removing them.

Refunds for cans, glass and plastic bottles will be given inside the store.”

That message, however, had not been given to all of the market’s employees last Thursday, and one resident who brought bottles to the customer service desk was told refunds would no longer be given.

As of Monday, cans and bottles were being accepted inside the store and the refunds given at the checkout stands. Several shopping carts full of recyclables were standing near the express lane.

That works for those who recycle primarily to get the refunds — many of Malibu’s homeless population have been supplementing their income that way and cleaning up beaches, parks and roadways in the bargain. But people who recycle for environmental reasons are in for a disappointment.

According to the market’s service manager, the cans and bottles collected inside the store probably will never make it to a recycling center. Instead, they are dumped in the refuse bins destined for the landfill. “We’re trying to get an employee to take them to the recycling machines at Vons [PCH at Sunset],” said Service Manager David Winbourne. “But we’re not having much luck, and the new machines won’t be in for a few weeks.”

According to the State Department of Conservation Division of Recycling, California law requires recycling facilities that pay refunds for containers with the CA Redemption label be located at stores a minimum distance apart. The office did not return calls to say exactly what that distance is and whether there are minimum hours of operation.

Few Ralphs markets have such facilities, however, and most of those are located in large storage trailers where an attendant weighs the containers and pays by the pound or the piece. Generally, these facilities are only open eight hours a day, five days a week, but they do accept a wider variety of containers.

A spokesperson for Ralphs Markets said the corporation is contracting with another company for the can banks, which read the bar code on the container, crush it, then issue a paper receipt for the refund, which is paid at the market check stand. She said Ralphs hopes the contract will be finalized and the machines installed within a few weeks.