IRVINE, Calif. — As a former delivery driver for UPS and Amazon, Omar Hernandez is used to working out of an office on wheels, but he no longer delivers packages. His cargo now is bottles and cans. Hernandez has been working for a company called Recycle from Home since January, and its popularity is growing.

“Mondays were like only 15 stops, and now it’s up to like 45-50,” Hernandez said.

What You Need To Know

  • Recycle from Home is a door-to-door pilot program the picks up beverage containers and pays residents

  • Over 2,500 customers have signed up, but it’s currently only available in Irvine

  • The city recently received a sustainability award for the program from the Institute for Local Government.

  • The program is an innovative response to the closure of several recycling centers throughout California in recent years.

Instead of driving to the nearest recycling center and standing in line, Recycle from Home is a door-to-door pickup service for beverage containers. Right now, it’s only available in Irvine.

“This innovative pilot project makes recycling in Irvine even simpler,” said Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, who put out a video supporting the program when it first launched last summer.

“We’re not actually taking business away from existing recycling centers, but we’re creating new recyclers who wouldn’t have done it before because of the added level of convenience,” said Ryan Cooper, president of Recycle from Home.

Residents can sign up for free online and are given a packet with 10 trash bags, barcodes and instructions. Drivers such as Hernandez scan the barcodes and pick up the bags, which they ask customers to separate by glass, plastic and aluminum.

“There are customers that just do one bag. There are customers that do eight, nine bags at the most, you could say. I think the most I’ve had was like 10 bags by a customer,” Hernandez said. “[Their phone] sends them a text message letting them know their bags have been picked up.”

Then, Hernandez heads back to OC Recycling in Santa Ana, where he weighs the bags and scans them again. The company takes 10% and customers get paid via PayPal, Venmo, or a check. Kathy Phillips said she schedules a pickup about once a month.

“It’s seamless. It’s easy. I’m trying to get all my neighbors to do this,” she said.

Marketing Director Damion Hickman says customers come from all demographics and backgrounds.

“It’s old people, young people, rich people, people who aren’t rich. Everybody’s recycling for different reasons,” he said. “Everybody’s excited to get paid for stuff that they would normally throw in their bin or give away and for the people that do recycle or were recycling already, it saves them time of going and standing in line at a recycling center.”

Hernandez picks up bags of beverage containers from an Irvine resident. (Spectrum News 1/Ariel Wesler)

Recycle from Home currently has about 2,500 customers, but they’re looking to reach 10,000 in the next year. Cooper said his company has already recycled 1.2 million beverage containers.

“Most of the recycling centers in California have closed, and it’s because there’s no convenient access to recycling and in the Amazon era, we are the Amazon of recycling,” Cooper said.

As for Hernandez, doing his job makes him feel more environmentally conscious.

“Being part of it is amazing!” he said. “By me being a driver and going up and picking up the bags, I feel like I’m doing my part and helping out.”

And he hopes making it easier for residents to recycle will ultimately lead to a greener planet.

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