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November 5th 2010

Daily News

Water bottle bill boosts city recycling - and collectors' profits

Writer Tim Donnelly, who recycled for blog report, said water bottles are 'everywhere.'
Smith for News
Writer Tim Donnelly, who recycled for blog report, said water bottles are 'everywhere.'

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.

"The bad part is getting the stores to honor the bottles," she said at a redemption center in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

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.

Tim Donnelly and Conal Darcy, who recently collected cans and bottles for the blog Brokelyn to gauge how much could be earned, said water bottles helped their bottom line.

"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.


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