Electronics drop-off bins at Kohl’s shopping center on El Camino Real
On weekends, in a pre-Covid world, most communities in San Diego had a drive-through electronics recycling center set up at a local school. They were free and welcomed everything; computers, TVs, microwaves, pretty much anything with a power cord.
With Covid restrictions loosened, on a recent weekend at the Encinitas Kohl’s shopping center on El Camino Real, a new firm set up such a drive-through. It was their second Encinitas such place within a month.
Throughout the weekend, cars and trucks lined up ten deep to rid themselves of electronic junk. Once a vehicle arrived to talk to the attendee, they were advised there would be a charge for some items. Sonya from Escondido unexpectedly had to pay $10 cash to get rid of three items; two CD players and a receiver. No receipt was issued for the cash payment.
Brian and Tiffany from Encinitas unloaded a truck bed full of items. They weren’t asked to pay except when it came to an old printer. “He wanted five bucks,” said Brian. “We passed.” Some drivers drove away in disgust of being asked to pay to recycle.
“If it's hazardous waste, there’s always been a fee,” said the staffer from the youth charity. A sandwich board with the prices was posted, but turned around backwards so drivers couldn’t read it when they pulled in.
Josef said the firm holds around 1,000 recycling events a year in California.
“Don’t we already pay for recycling?” asked customer Brian. He’s correct. Most new electronics carry a recycling fee added upon purchase, such as the state-mandated $7 for new TVs. Recycling companies are paid from the state’s recycling fund based on poundage of electronic waste collected.
The U.S. Kids Chamber of Commerce, based in La Jolla, operated the E-waste recycling. The staff member was overheard telling motorists the organization did everything from “keeping kids off the street and employed,” to “releasing baby turtles in Mexico.”
A call to the group's toll-free number solicited a quick return call from a “Josef” who claimed to be just a representative and event planner of the non-profit. Coincidently, the public record of California’s Secretary of State lists the chief financial officer and the person responsible for the firm’s reporting as Josef Shannon from Bakersfield, operating the organization at 7514 Girard Ave. #1216, in La Jolla.
Josef said the firm holds around 1,000 recycling events a year in California. They generally collect 10,000 pounds of electronic junk per event. The Encinitas event collected 30,000 pounds. “Encinitas is very green,” said Josef.
The organization does not have non-profit status with the IRS, nor do the watchdog groups that report on non-profits have any record of U.S. Kids Chamber of Commerce.
Formed in 2015, the organization has a website containing language about youth leadership sparking an entrepreneurial spirit, life skills, civil mindedness, environmental stewardship. But nowhere on the website, with many dead links, does it read who they have served, to what extent, or how a school or youth organization could seek their assistance or programs.
The five Google ratings listed each give the organization a one-star rating for their seemingly lack of transparency and seeing no connection to the well-advertised recycling events.
Josef acknowledged the recycling events are a source of funding for their programs. According to Josef, because Covid restricted opportunities in the U.S., “We opened up several computer labs in Mexico.” Their Facebook page shows many reposted pictures of youth activities, but none credited to the U.S. Kids Chamber of Commerce.