Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Collecting Cans in Gowanus

If there's one way to cut through the clutter of information with which we deal, headlining a story "Collecting Cans in Gowanus" is one of them. Call it instant click bait. In any case, the story is about the people you see collecting deposit bottles and cans every day, in this case, collecting them in Park Slope and bringing them to the Pathmark in Gowanus. This is from NYC Pavement Pieces, which is produced by journalism grad students at NYU. Here are a few excerpts:
Jose Rivera jingles and clangs as he walks west of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, armed with five bulging heavy duty trash bags. He’s a regular in this area, always cheerful and pleasant. Rivera is known for bending down to say hello to children in strollers and petting the neighborhood dogs. He takes pride in his notoriety and his genial relationship in the community where he works as a local bottle and can collector.

On a Sunday or a Monday, just before the Sanitation Department picks up the curbside trash and recycling, collectors like Rivera can net as much as $70 or $80 for the day’s work. Added to the average of $40 or $50 he makes on other days, Rivera manages to just barely eke out the rent for his one room apartment near the upscale Windsor Terrace neighborhood. For fifteen years, Rivera says his scavenging has kept him out of trouble and more seamy lines of work.

“It’s better than hurting someone, or getting hurt or going to jail for trying to make a living,” he says.

Like most of the collectors in the area, Rivera uses the topography to his advantage, starting near Prospect Park and working west. The hill slopes away from the park, helping roll the carts and ease the weight of bags off the shoulders of collectors, to the plateau where the redemption center in the parking lot of the Pathmark lies under the Gowanus Expressway...

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 87 billion beverage containers have been returned since the Container Act went into effect. In communities like Gowanus, professional bottle pickers are responsible for the bulk of those redeemed containers. Men and women tearing through garbage bags with their bare hands have become an integral part of the urban ecosystem. The society relies on can collectors to recover and salvage its refuse, and the collectors retain their autonomy.
We've cut out a lot, so click over and read it.


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