plastic water bottles, return-for-deposit containers

When I was little my mom bought all of our beverages from the local beer distributor store. They sold any type of beer that you would want, plus wine coolers and sodas, in return-for-deposit bottles. When the bottles were empty, Mom would rinse and return them to the beer store for the container deposit. I can still remember the clink of the bottles as Mom’s shopping wagon bumped along the sidewalk and the yeasty beer smell that would hit our noses when we got to the store.

Although it was just a few cents, the container deposit refund made it worth the trouble for us to rinse out and return the bottles. For the same reason, some children in those days would collect the cans and glass bottles for the dollar or two they’d make when they turned them in.

These days, a number of people come through my neighborhood on recycling and garbage day for just this reason. In the pre-dawn hours, I often hear the sound of the “canners,” as we call them, as they make their rounds in search of for-deposit containers from our recycling bins and garbage cans.

I don’t use bottled water (I have a filtration pitcher at home) nor do I drink soda, but I used to collect discarded water bottles during my walks. If they still contained water, I watered street trees with it. (I never collected soda or beer bottles because I worried that the scent would attract insects.) On recycling day, I would put them in a clear plastic bag right by the recycling bin so the “canners” could find them.

Since COVID-19, I no longer pick up water bottles on my walks. But I do cautiously collect them from some people at work. I’m still happy to leave any return-for-deposit containers out on recycling day. Someone is sure to pick them up, and I’m glad to let them have the container deposit refund.

And if no one picks them up, they will be carted away with the other recyclables. Either way, the containers get recycled, and maybe I’ve helped someone make a bit of cash in these difficult times.

By Joanna Lacey

Joanna Lacey lives in New York and has collected thousands of ideas from the frugal habits of her mother and grandmother. You can find her on Facebook at Joanna the Green Maven.