The return was packed, but I waited my place in line. Coincidentally, I was in front of and behind two men I've seen around Stratford winding the streets and picking up bottles for the return. One man uses a three-wheeler and the other just has a two seat-bike, but both can be found with large trash bags full of bottles thrown from Connecticut traffic on all sorts of roads.
I was in Sunday chill zone so didn't stress too much about the wait, although on other days I would have left. It was ridiculously insane. The two collectors and I were granted space to do our returns about the same time, and my collection was slight in comparison to theirs. Each of the men returned $12 of cans, glass, and plastic and they compared stories of their collecting. They were dressed for the cold weather and seemed to be in partnership with the work, although they talked more to themselves as they deposit materials and not to each other.
I've read recently that the recycling industry is for nought and that research proves it is a waste of time. We over-consume and that is the real issue. It turns out that the cost of recycling causes more environmental damage than actually not doing anything at all - I'm sure there's more to that debate. Still, I like to do my part and I cringe when I see people throwing bottles into the trash. It's not so much an ethical issue as much as an economic issue. Nickels matter and it seemed to me that the return of such items was employment for the two men joining me at the store.
My mind wanders when in the presence of such a circumstance and I'm fascinated by ways of life as lived by others. I take my bottles back once a month and I usually do it while grumping and cussing. Yet, I've seen these two men on their bikes all over town, often heading to the grocery store for their returns. There's a rhythm to their work I admire and I have respect for the perseverance it takes to collect enough to make any sort of real cash. I just recycle my own crap, but these men are cleaning the earth of litterbugs and idiots. I couldn't help but have tremendous respect for what they do, but left somewhat curious of how they sustain such work.
And with that. It's Monday - back to work I go.