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Saving Planet Earth and Making Some Change

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary//Video, Ann Bassette Posted: Oct 30, 2008

Editor's Note: Spending a few mornings at the recycling center gets YO! editor Ann Bassette a few extra dollars a week, but it's worth a lot more than that. VIDEO: Cleaning up the coast with students in San Francisco.

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO -- My trunk is making embarrassing noises again. Every time I hit a speed bump, 24 ounce bottles of MGD clink together. Each bottle cost $ 2.25 Out the Door as the neon orange sticker states. Not my $2.25. I took them from Jenny & JJs house. They recycle, but within their own apartment building. I take their bottles and cans and store them in my compact four door Chevy. When the jingling begins to sound throughout my entire car after every turn I hit, or when there is no more room in my trunk to store anything, I head down to NexCycle in South San Francisco and try to guess how much it might all be worth.

VIDEO: Coastal Cleanup

The early hours are best. Theyre open 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. If you arrive after noon, you have a higher chance of not being able to recycle everything you have because the place gets full even after they dump all of the cans into the machine that compacts them into a neatly squared cube. I come on the weekends when I cant make it during the week and then play Bubble Breaker on my cell phone as I patiently wait.

Ive been using this facility since August. Its the best place since the last time I tried to recycle at the place in Westborough. I got yelled at by the old man who works there. I dont know why he yelled, but I havent been back to ask.

There are about 10 trash cans that are reused here. I bring my white garbage bags to the corner of the Safeway parking lot. The wait can be tiresome because at times, people bring in shopping carts full of things that are waiting to be turned into money. Theres a serious variety of people who come to this place: old men and women, young folks, every ethnicity. Yet, I still feel awkward standing with these people. But I do it anyway.

I chat it up with the two Latin men who calculate the money and work the compressor as I sort out my soda cans from the glass beer bottles from the plastic water bottles and throw them into their gray trashcan, which stink and are covered in grime. My hands are always left sticky when I go to retrieve my $4.42. Chump change, but change nonetheless.

Remember that old saying, Every penny counts? I believe it. Ive lived off pennies before, and I have no shame collecting a bottle here and a can there in order to add to my meager bank account. What it really goes to is an extra five bucks that goes into my gas tank every two weeks. But its alright. Ive always recycled, and if I can make a little extra cash by helping to take care of the earth Im going to keep doing it.

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