Sandra Zebi is no stranger to the challenges posed by urban waste. Now the owner of a vintage clothing store in Marina del Rey, Zebi was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which produced 14,000 tons of waste each day.
Ironically inspired by her urban surroundings, Zebi created art using recycled materials. Moving to L.A., she renovated a run-down building and now uses it to house her shop, which is filled with recycled clothing and art.
Zebi loves L.A. but she is not a fan of our waste and recycling system. Like many small business owners she has found that her store does not have a recycling option.
Because of her tenacious environmental consciousness, Zebi seeks other options. Some of her actions are illegal or frowned upon by city government. A business partner, Vanessa, for example, gives bags of recyclable materials to neighborhood homeless men who reside near their store. This is not ideal, as recycling materials properly with the city can create jobs and benefit the environment. Additionally, Vanessa often feels unsafe in these areas after dark, which is the only time that she can discreetly dispose of her store’s waste.
Others take more drastic measures. A friend of Zebi’s who owns a small business was once advised to dispose of waste by driving down the freeway and letting it fall out of her truck to litter the road.
All of this raises a basic question: Why is it so difficult for many Angelenos to recycle?
Though L.A. has an ambitious goal of zero waste by 2030, the city will never reach that milestone under its current policies. Small businesses are not required to hire recycling services, and when they do, they often have no record of the fate of their recyclables. This means that the services that they pay for could be futile and their recyclables could ultimately be thrown away instead of reused.
Frustrated with the status quo, Zebi often finds herself comparing L.A.’s recycling policies with those of her birthplace. Facing waste issues bigger than our own, her home city has surpassed L.A. — which sends 3,400 tons of garbage to landfills each day — in renewable innovation by finding viable solutions for Sao Paulo’s garbage.
Business owners like Zebi want to do the right thing to clean up our environment and make L.A. a more livable city. It’s up to our elected leaders to create a system that allows them to do their part.