San Fran Turns Transit Tickets into Trees

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San Franciscans can now tape old subway tickets with minimal leftover value to the lid of their recycling cart, and the ticket's remaining value will be donated to local charities. Photo: Alexis Petru, Earth911

It’s a common dilemma for regular subway riders: What do you do with all those leftover tickets with just a few cents of remaining value?

San Francisco residents had a few disposal options for their old tickets from the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART): They could consolidate the tickets’ value only at certain BART stations, or they could donate the unused value to charity by mailing the tickets to nonprofits registered with BART or delivering them to special donation boxes.

But now a new program from San Francisco’s waste and recycling collection company, Recology, is making it more convenient for residents of the “City by the Bay” to put old subway tickets to good use.

As part of the “Turning Tiny Tickets into Trees” initiative, San Franciscans can now tape old tickets to the lid of their recycling carts or hand the tickets to one of Recology’s recycling drivers. All collected BART tickets will be delivered to a community foundation that redeems their value and sends the money to two local nonprofits.

One of the benefiting organizations, Friends of the Urban Forest, plants and cares for trees in San Francisco to promote a green infrastructure in the city’s urban environment.

“Recycling is truly amazing when it can turn unused BART tickets into trees for San Francisco,” said Dan Flanagan, Friends of the Urban Forest’s executive director, in a press release.

The San Francisco Food Bank will also receive donations from the new Recology program to fund their work feeding more than 225,000 people in need annually through local homeless shelters, senior centers and soup kitchens.

“The Food Bank can turn each dollar donated into $6 worth of food. Donations from the tiny tickets can quickly turn into much-needed meals on the family dinner table,” said the Food Bank’s Marketing and Communications Manager Lisa Mizokami, in a press release.

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recology, san francisco, recycling

Recology employee David Nanney came up with the idea for the BART ticket collection program. Photo: Recology

One employee’s good idea

The idea for the new Tiny Tickets program originated with David Nanney, a supervisor at Recology’s San Francisco sorting facility. Despite the existing consolidation and donation options for old BART tickets, Nanney noticed the occasional ticket moving across the sorting lines at the plant.

Made of a thin, lightweight plastic like a credit card, BART tickets were winding up with a mix of other small non-recyclable items at the end of the sorting line.

Looking to find a second life for this material, Nanney proposed that his co-workers watch out for BART tickets on the line and toss them in a special collection box.

In just four months, the facility had collected more than $1,400 in unused ticket value, which was then donated to the San Francisco Food Bank and Friends of the Urban Forest.

Based on the success of this pilot program, Recology decided to expand the initiative to allow residents to easily “recycle” their old BART tickets curbside.

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