Returning Empties and Hanging out with the Homeless at the Recycling Center

Being unemployed for the longest time, with ever so rarely a reply on my applications, I took on the habit of returning empties: cans, water bottles, etc. In my area there is only one place that takes these, and it’s a rather seedy area.The recycling center is behind a grocery store where 18-wheelers turn around and make their deliveries. It’s within one block from the Government Welfare building. The only other patrons I’ve ever seen returning bottles and cans were homeless men. I’ve never seen women there, I wonder if it’s thanks to their male counterpart’s chivalry?

The first time I dropped off recycling was a bag full of water bottles from a place where I had a part-time job “Oh that recycling bin? It’s just for show. We throw them in the trash!” I was appalled at their nonchalance about it. When I made my way to the back of the building I was greeted by a friendly guy with a dirty face on an old bicycle. He offered his help, it was during the center’s self-serve hours and the workers weren’t there. I said “Sure!” and handed him the large trash bag.

A security officer must have had a huge radar beeping red lights in his face, because he popped out of nowhere <Danger-Danger-Dirtyman-on-bike-approach-white-woman-alert!> “Is this man a problem miss?” I laughed. As I usually do when I feel a bit nervous.

“Nope! I was just giving him my bottles in exchange for his help.” The nice security guy pounced on the opportunity to assume the friendly bike-guy had threatened me, or something, and started throwing accusations his way.

Friendly bike-guy insisted he was just offering his help, and didn’t want anything in return. “I want you to have them, trust me. It was my plan anyhow, and I was glad you came along.” I smiled at him, making sure he knew it was all cool. “Trust me, we’re ok, you can leave us now.” I told the segway-driving security dude. “Really, we’re all good. Leave this man alone.”

I’ve been known to take blind chances on total strangers, that I could get hurt, mugged, or worse. I don’t want to think about those options. I want to keep trusting strangers.

To this day I still bring back my empties, but I try to go during the center’s working hours. I find it odd that each and every time I go I am always the only woman, and the only home’d one. Every other patron is homeless bearing signs of the wear and tear endured by living on the streets.

Why is that? In Canada it was a given that everybody just returned their empties. And we are big beer drinkers! Big on the bottled beer especially, so it’s more hassle than the lighter options of cans and plastic bottles. But the thought never once crossed my mind that if I returned my empties I’d be considered cheap, or broken down, or at the end of my rope.

It’s been a humbling experience to say the least.


10 thoughts on “Returning Empties and Hanging out with the Homeless at the Recycling Center”

  1. When the trash goes out, homeless come around to go through the trash cans and get the redeemable bottles.
    We put ours out now in a separate bag so they can just grab them.


    1. We do that at our roller derby house… It’s in a core homeless district. Where I live, there are ever so rarely any visiting the island. Ever-ever. That and the backlash of all my years without work, really, sometimes I’m afraid I may end up being homeless myself! But you don’t need to know that. 😉


        1. Fishing gear? Nada. But it’s a good idea, but then I’d have to get a fishing license (I’m totally quoting Doug Stanhope, one of his best act ever)


  2. 25 years ago, when I was in primary school, the idea of recycling household waste was just being considered here in the UK. The older generation said it would never catch on but out teachers persisted with teaching us the importance of recycling. Nowadays, almost every UK household separates their recycling waste. Great post by the way 🙂


  3. My relatives in New England usually return their bottles. And thy’re the kind of people with big houses and at least one motor vehicle per person, the family car being a 500 hp GMC SUV – also, the car they lend us when we visit


  4. Guilty until proven innocent, huh? You have a kind heart, Marie, about other people and honoring the planet. Be proud of yourself for that!

    I dug in my boss’ office trash last week to retrieve bottles and cans to recycle. It’s a messy job, but somebody has to do it. 🙂


    1. Shit. You wouldn’t believe the crap I dig through on a regular basis to properly sort trash out. After each bout, I’m a mess whenever I look into our trash cans, and the recycle bin is right next to the trash! People… 🙂


  5. We no longer have recycling centers around here well if we do I don’t know about them and you can’t return bottles for money any more which sucks you can collect cans and get money for them but not much. Tim has been getting me to collect cans for months in fact we have a shed half full of them


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