REDEMPTION OPERATOR SURVEY #2
In the July we started the Buy Back Operator interview series highlighting Community Conservation Centers aka the Berkeley BuyBack. The interviews were conducted by Doug Brooms in collaboration with Dan Knapp, Ph.D., Urban Ore, Inc. Our subject this month is Aaron Metals Company of Oakland. But first let’s address the purpose of the interviews.
California lost about 35% of its redemption centers in the last four years. According to CalRecycle, the State agency that oversees recycling, during the past 12 months since April 2016, another 140 collection centers have closed. Now there are only 1,692 statewide. In Alameda County, 28 redemption centers remain, of which 6 are in Oakland. The erosion of businesses and jobs, the drop in resource recovery and the inconveniences to consumers of having fewer redemption centers are no longer tolerable.
Nonprofit recycling advocacy organization, Californians Against Waste, has requested a survey of Bay Area recycling centers that return Container Redemption Value (CRV) deposits to the public. They are working to understand the impacts both on businesses and on local communities. They will use the information gathered first to understand the impacts, and then to inform decision-makers in Sacramento who are working on reversing these closures. The information will also be used to inform the public. We want to make each interview into a very short informative story that people can relate to.
NCRA News Editor Portia Sinnott has turned the interview format into a draft on-line survey and has asked Doug Brooms, Dan Knapp and the NCRA Board to authorize her to survey the entire state. One may think the passage of the current Bottle Bill Fix may render the survey unproductive, but to the contrary it will provide baseline data by which to measure progress.
Aaron Metals Company
Aaron Metals Company is a family owned business spanning three generations over 41 years. They operate walk and drive-in operations in East Oakland and in Hayward. Their bread and butter remains scrap non-ferrous metals, with CRV redemption as a more recent adjunct. In Oakland when pickup trucks arrive, their scrap metal pieces are tossed into different wheelbarrows having marked tare weights, then rolled onto the scale for quick processing and payments. The premise is tidy with neat colorful bales of scrap wire stacked against a perimeter fence, with forklifts moving about. A three person office is located towards the rear.
The interview began with son Aaron, and later joined by father Paul. Their scrap metal business has remained steady over the years, whereas the CRV sector has seen a downward trend. Most Bay Area residents don’t so much care about their nickels and presumably opt for the more convenient curbside recycling cart. Nearly all of the walk-in business comes from the less fortunate, who bring in bags of collectibles to convert to ready cash. They are situated in a CIS-Mixed Zone with nearby housing. Complaints are infrequent, maybe every few years having to defend a nuisance complaint using a pricey lawyer.
The CRV business has not been a money maker for them. Paying out for plastics #1 and #2 is fine. State reimbursements take only 2-3 weeks after invoicing. However they absorb the loss with occasional plastics #3 – #7, given the difficulties of selling to processors. Consideration is being given to de-certifying their Hayward CRV operation. Having to handle uncommon CRV stuff and glass is not worth it.
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