Right now as I start this post, out on the street, the same somebody who comes by once a week is creating the clink-clink noise of bottles being sorted out of the neighborhood recycle bins.
They go back in. The cans net $1.57 a lb at one local recycling center, the bottles are under $0.10 a lb. You have to be careful sorting out the bottles to get at the cans, or the people that own the house get angry when they find another broken bottle near their driveway and they get one of the bin locks that are becoming more common in my neighborhood.
A cubic meter of aluminum is 2,700 lbs. That’s obviously much denser than a bag of crushed cans, there’s a lot of air in there; the point is that any decent number of cans is going to be a lot bigger, in volume, than a cubic meter. I figure you can probably get, what, thirty pounds of cans in a plastic bag, maybe? And maybe fifteen or twenty of those bags in your car? One of these days I have to get on the horn and call the local curbside pickup guys and ask how many cans they pull out of the average recycling bin, but it can’t be that many. One soda can is about 15 grams. So it takes 1,000 of them to make a kilogram and a half, which is $3.45. I figure the average recycling bin probably has, what? Hm; two adults per household in my immediate area, not too many teenagers (mostly younger kids), so two cases of cans is probably a generous load for a week.
So maybe 30-40 cans, at most, per recycling bin. Let’s call it 20, I’m feeling pessimistic tonight but the neighborhood is mostly upper middle class so beer usually comes in bottles and soda is so… gauche. So, 50 recycling bins need to be scoured for 1,000 cans. At about a minute or a minute and a half per can, rummaging around, plus walking to the car to unload your bag… what’s that? Maybe an hour and a half to net 1,000 cans? They start at about 10, if they work until 5 in the morning, that’s 7 hours. Let’s call it seven and a half, just to jibe with the hour and a half baseline… so 5,000 cans in a night. That’s much less than the volume problem, sorry… I’m working this out as I go.
This is not what I would call fulfilling work, a seven and a half hour shift to haul in seventeen dollars and twenty-seven cents.
And someone’s doing it. Not just here, I have it on some credible reporting that this happens in every neighborhood in the Los Angeles basin where curbside recycling goes on. Leaguesters from other locales can report their own mileage.
That’s an awful lot of people busting their hind end at what is essentially a full-time job (albeit one night a week, unless they run different neighborhoods with different collection times, of course). For seventeen dollars and twenty seven cents. If you could do that job 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year, you’d be bringing home a whopping $4,490.20. Less expenses. Well, it’s tax-free, so you’ve got that going for you, I guess. I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but you couldn’t pay me $17.27 to look at your computer. I’d either do it for free, or charge you a hell of a lot more than that.
There are people who really get bent out of shape that someone’s running through their trash. There are other people who get upset that those cans aren’t making it into the city recycling program, and thus they’re cutting out revenue that helps pay for the program.
I guess I find that odd. Not necessarily wrong, or a bad way to look at the situation, or a bad way to look at the world. Just odd.
All I can think about is seventeen dollars and twenty seven cents.