August 24, 2011

Cotton Pickin' Bottle Pickin' !! (Day 33 - August 24, 2011)

That Poverty Guy Picking Bottles (Reflection in a Car Window)
Hokey shmokey artichokey!!!  Today was the hardest . . . by far . . . that I have ever worked to earn $1.83 an hour.  You are correct my friend . . . today was bottle picking day.

Why bottle picking?  It's not uncommon for homeless people in Canada, the USA, and other developed nations to resort to things like panhandling, scavenging, bottle picking, or even crime when they have no other options.  So . . . not feeling particularly criminal today and not being a fan of panhandling . . . I thought I would give bottle picking a try.

First Find of the Day
$7.30 Baby!!
The Haul
Here's how the day went . . . I started at 10 AM, and found my first can in a gutter near my home at 10:06 AM.  On a natural high from this bounty, I made a beeline for the highway only to be disappointed.  I had expected to be wading through bottles based upon the advice I had received but found relatively slim pickings UNTIL I hit the mother load at a highway overpass.  I'm not sure if they were thrown from the overpass, or from the highway, or collected there because of wind . . . but one-third of my haul came from that 50 foot stretch.  I then went into town, and soon decided that no matter where you are if you look hard enough you will find a bottle close by. I checked garbage cans and dumpsters wherever I went (more on this below).  I went along the creek and made my way to the river . . . with the creek being much more "giving" than the river area (at least where I was at).  Finally, I combed some back alleys in the downtown area with moderate results.  In the end, I had a full black garbage bag and arrived at the depot at 1:56 PM . . . netting $7.30. 

30 Seconds Later It Was GONE
The deal was that I wasn't going to eat anything except what I could buy from my bottle picking earnings.  Thankfully, I was a able to buy a tasty lunch consisting of a creamsicle flavoured milkshake and a hot dog.

By the way, I have to tip my hat to the 48% of survey respondents who guessed I would earn more than $5.  You were more confident in my bottle finding abilities than I was (I voted for less than $2).  And . . . a little heads up if you ever ask other people for bottle picking advice . . . without fail they will tell you one of three things (i) go along the highway, (ii) steal them from recycling collection points, or (iii) they will offer to give you bottles (which is awfully nice of them).

And now for . . . That Poverty Guy's Coveted List of "MOST . . . "

Things that make you go . . . hmmm?

Most "Canadian" Find . . . a hockey stick, of course.  Right in the middle of some woods.  Where did you expect it would be?

Most Successful Area to Bottle Pick . . . as mentioned above, the overpass on the highway.  However, honourable mention must go out to little clearings by the creek and back alleys.

Yes, that says 190 Proof . . . 95% alcohol.

Most "Dangerous" Find . . . an empty bottle of Everclear Grain Alcohol.  It is lethal . . . 190 proof (95% alcohol) . . . and I found it literally within a hundred steps of a playground and daycare.

Most Difficult Retrieval . . . near the back entrance of a local pub that sells off sales I found 6 empty beer cans . . . just daring me to come and get them from their home amongst a thick outcropping of 3 foot tall thistles.  I took that dare!

I think it's broken.

Most "Expensive" Find . . . a smashed Blackberry.  It was lying just off of the side of the highway under the overpass where I found all those bottles.

Most Disgusting Area to Retrieve . . . a dumpster in behind a local restaurant.  There were lots of bottles but the whole bin was being swarmed by small bugs that were feasting on the entrails of whatever was in there.  I grabbed all the bottles I could reach and then made a mad dash.

Wait a minute . . . that's FULL!

Most "Joyous" Find . . . for the first three hours my biggest joy was the very first can I found. (Because part of me had been fearing that I wouldn't find any.)  However, words cannot describe the feeling when you see three "empty" cans on the side of an alley . . . reach down pick up one and put it in the bag . . . reach down and pick up a second one and put it in the bag . . . and reach down and pick up the third only to realize that is unopened and FULL.  YEEHAW, HOORAY, and YABBA DABBA DOO!!!

Along the way, I actually found a lot of weird things.  There were lots of gloves, shoes (always one out of the pair, never both . . . not sure how that happens), socks, wrappers, and a gazillion Timmy's coffee cups.  However, the really bizarre things included . . . 

I think it "baled"!! (I crack myself up)
Excuse me, sir.  Is this the cart return area?

A bale of hay.  We're tough in the Rockies, we don't have sissy tumbleweeds blowing across the road.

A shopping cart. 
Someone made a wrong turn at the grocery store and ended up about 4 kms away in the woods.

What the . . . ?
Where the heck did I put that letter?

An empty glass.  This was found literally 10 feet away from main street.  Really strange.

A letter of resignation. 
I'm thinking someone is going to hand their boss a grocery list or something.

That Poverty Guy's "Do's and Don'ts" of Bottle Picking:

DO start as early as possible in the day.  I left it too late as it's much cooler earlier, and earlier would allow you to get the jump on people cleaning up from the night before (and getting to garbage cans before they are emptied).

DO go to the highway.  Unless it has been picked recently, there are some good finds.

DO watch your step.  Doggy doo doo is out there . . . just waiting for you to let down your guard.

DO grab some of the gloves you'll find to cover your hands.  The whole time you are dealing in people's muck . . . littered garbage, dumpsters, and garbage cans.  And, thistles!

DO find a tool to help search through garbage cans.  A stick or something to poke through the layers of garbage would be particularly helpful.

DON'T grab two large empty plastic milk containers that are sold elsewhere.  The man at the depot looks at you funny, and then says that they cannot take them.

DON'T check garbage cans on dog walking routes.  Seriously.  Just saying.

DON'T check garbage cans with a recycle container next to it.  We're simply too well trained, and 99.9% of the time we put the bottles into the recycling container (which is completely in accessible . . . once again, just saying).

DON'T steal.  I saw plenty of opportunities to grab some cans sitting in somebody's yard or garage.  However, I think the better route to go is to simply ask.  They might say "no", but they might also be happy to get rid of them and give you more.

SO WHAT DID I LEARN TODAY?  It's amazing what you see when you simply open your eyes to see it.  Most of the places I walked are places I would regularly walk, but have never noticed the treasures I describe above.  And, having seen some things again for the first time, it's amazing what you can do about them.  Poverty is there to be seen . . . it's not pleasant but it won't hurt us to look at it.  And, each of us has the ability to do a little something more than we already are to eliminate poverty.  Perhaps money, perhaps time, perhaps ideas, but definitely adding your voice to encourage our communities and leaders to address poverty.

Hey!!  I'm That Poverty Guy . . . let's make a world of difference together.

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  1. MA from Van IslandAugust 25, 2011 at 10:16 AM

    I really enjoyed this blog. I never thought anyone would be able to make hunting for bottles and cans really interesting. I feel like going out and finding some neat stuff as well. Thanks for the smaile.

  2. We love your thought provoking blog posts from the Church Shoes to that last pix. of those sore tootsie's. What an "ambassador" you are and a true "hero" in our own small town. Thanks for making the difference. Your loyal blog readers...Di & Lu

  3. wow...note to self...avoid cans near or in dog parks.....have to say, it cracked me up though!!

    Awesome job collecting..but sad to see thats all that can be made by someone truly homeless and in need.

  4. Sean D. Krausert, EditorAugust 25, 2011 at 10:19 PM

    Thanks to you all for your feedback! Your kind words mean a lot to me.

  5. Bottles for Poverty: is a non-profit organization started in Davis, CA by some of fellow managerial economic students at UC Davis. Our main goal is to collect bottles, cans, and glasses to raise funds to build a school in an impoverished region of Ethiopia. Our goal is to raise $22,000 by the end of the school year to have enough money to build a school that will be able to accommodate hundreds of new and continuing students. Our idea is as simple as it sounds. We would like you to donate your cans, bottles or glasses to raise funds to build a school in Ethiopia. We are partnering with a ninety seven year old organization to make our dream come true. The American Jewish Joint Distribution (AJJC) has been very vital in many effective charitable works around the world. We will be working directly with Dr. Rick Hodes a member of the AJJC and a prominent humanitarian for the past twenty-three years who will be our mentor and support through this journey.
    For more information:
    Visit our website @
    Email us @
    or Add Like us on Facebook
    Thanks for the Support!