Deposits on aluminum cans and glass and plastic bottles are then redeemed at recycling centres.
Statewide, the bottle bill represents rich pickings for recyclers.
Of the 21 billion drinks purchased in cans and containers in 2009, 17.2 billion of those were recycled, according to California's Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.
Last year, San Francisco recycled 77 per cent of its total waste, and has set itself a zero waste target by 2020.
Some of this success is down to innovative policies such as a city-wide kitchen scrap and garden waste collection service, resulting in 20,000 tonnes of high-grade compost a year - much of which ends up spread over the vineyards of Napa.
Scavengers who scour the streets of San Francisco for cans and bottles also contribute to this high recycling rate, creating a symbiotic relationship that turns trash into cash and provides an income to some of the city’s estimated 8,640 homeless people.
A few steps away from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park lined with eucalyptus and palm trees, a dozen men and women queue with trolleys overflowing with salvaged trash.
At 9.30am they are allowed to start the noisy process of separating the cans, glass and plastic bottles before being weighed.