Invest in Better Trash Cans to Support Less Fortunate in Isla Vista

Image courtesy of Adam Levine | Flickr

Arturo Samaniego
National Beat Reporter

Bottle recycling to some may just be a way to get a few extra dollars and help keep the environment clean, but to the less fortunate among us it can serve as a valuable source of income.

Bottle recycling in Isla Vista, like in many other communities, serves as a form of economic relief for homeless individuals. For this reason, the Isla Vista community should be doing more to make sure the homeless have access to bottles that would otherwise be mindlessly discarded.

According to the Central Coast Collective on Homelessness, the homeless population in Santa Barbara County totals 1,489 individuals as of 2017; the homeless population specifically in Isla Vista totals 26 individuals.

Though the number of homeless individuals may appear relatively small, one should also remember that Isla Vista is only a 1.86 square-mile block of land. It’s not that unusual to walk the streets of I.V. and see a homeless person scavenging through trash cans and recycling bins in search of bottles and cans that may help them pay for their next meal.

Of course, that is not to say that everybody who depends on collecting bottles is homeless; some are able to make a passable living, but the job is dirty, involving dumpster diving to sift through trash for bottles.

Beverage containers that can be redeemed for cash include those made from aluminum, glass, and plastic. Under the California Refund Value program, containers that weigh under 24 ounces can be redeemed for 5 cents each and containers that weigh 24 ounces or more are valued at 10 cents each. Though this may appear as nothing more than spare change, for the homeless, recycling bottles may be the only way to make an honest living.     

At one bottle recycling center, as reported by PBS, an individual on average nets $15 to $35 a day. Those $15 to $35 can prove invaluable to a homeless individual, allowing them to buy basic necessities.

Additionally, the importance of making recyclable bottles more accessible to the homeless becomes more evident when one takes into account the amount of plastic and aluminum that is not recycled.

As reported by National Geographic, 91% of plastic goes unrecycled; according to The Aluminum Association, Americans throw away nearly $1 billion worth of aluminum cans every year. Not only does recycling bottles provide the homeless with a form of income, but it also serves to help keep our environment from becoming even more polluted than it already is.

Like many communities around the country, I.V. could improve work on keeping empty beverage containers from littering sidewalks and gutters.

A great way to help both the homeless and keep the streets of I.V. clean is by simply setting up special trash cans similar to those in Denmark that make collecting recyclable bottles easy and clean.

The special trash cans can be found throughout the city of Copenhagen and have proven to be such a success that a program to retrofit already existing trash cans to meet the new designs has been extended to 500 of the city’s trash cans.

The design of Denmark’s special trash can is simple, consisting of a shelf attached to the side of a regular trash can where people can deposit their used bottles. This design can lead to less of a need for homeless individuals to scavenge through endless trash, making the overall bottle collection process more hygienic and efficient.

Increasing homeless individuals’ access to recyclable bottles in I.V. serves not only to provide them with a steady source of income, but could also reduce pollution, helping to keep our streets clean. Individuals should be able to collect bottles in a dignified and sanitary manner, underlining why Isla Vista should follow Denmark’s example when it comes to trash cans.