November 5th 2010
Water bottle bill boosts city recycling - and collectors' profits
Adding water bottles to the list of containers New Yorkers can redeem for refunds has boosted the liquid assets of those who collect empties for a living.
The year-old water bill, which helped increase recycling and fatten state coffers, also has given "canners" - the army of mostly homeless people who comb the streets for bottles and cans and turn them in for 5 cents a pop - reason to smile.
Ana Martinez de Luco, a nun who works at Sure We Can, an organization that helps collectors redeem containers, has seen a spike in empties since H20 was added.
"They're very light and easier to carry," she said. "Easier to find also because, unfortunately, a lot of people are drinking water bottles."
Susan Andrews, who makes about $20 a day collecting recyclable containers, says the water bottles have made her job easier - and harder.
It's estimated that 2 billion to 3 billion water bottles a year are used statewide. They represent about 25% of all redeemable cans and bottles.
"Water bottles were by far the most we found," Donnelly said. "They're just everywhere."
The duo estimate they earned $5.25 for an hour of work.
"I was kind of surprised you can actually make some cash," said Donnelly, 29, a freelance writer.
"You dig for trash, but it's actually better than some of the jobs I had over the years."
Regular canners can bring in a steady income of $50 per day - even $100 on occasion, said de Luco.