It’s still a problem

May 4, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Jasen Obermeyer

With spring around the corner, it’s time to switch out sweaters, long pants, mittens and scarfs for t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. It’s a time to switch your car tires, bring the lawn chairs out, dust off the barbecue, and go look for empty beer bottles and cans on the side of the road.

Yeah, that last part I mentioned is an annual thing I do in the spring. With the snow melted, the grass matted, and the weather not too hot, it’s perfect for finding all the empty beer bottles and cans off the road. It’s very well known in my family and group of friends I collect these empties. 

Hey, in today’s world, you need every bit of money to save up. Even if it’s not much, it buys you some gas, and dinner, or saving it for a rainy day, or towards your next purchase of alcohol.

During family gatherings, my cousins would joke they were helping to pay for my post-secondary education. A friend of my brother would message me to come to his place and collect the cases and bags of empties he accumulated but didn’t bother to return. At other gatherings, I’d bring a bag to collect the wine or beer bottles to bring home!

It all started when I was around 13, biking along my road, or going for quick walks, finding empties and collecting them. From there, it’s become tradition to collect all the empties I lay my eyes and hands on. One summer, I biked along the roads in my area to collect as many as I could. It was great exercise, especially in the morning, the cool air temperature, how quiet and peaceful it was. Another time I saved up my collection for the whole year! Not so great when the garage started to smell.

The zenith of my collection came at the beginning of the Covid pandemic and lockdown. Since it was an early spring, I figured with all the time on my hands, I’d go for walks. I’ve done this before, but never to this scale.

I began noticing way more bottles and cans than usual. So the next day, I grabbed some grocery bags and went along the road, the same route, picking up all the bottles and cans along the way. And in that kilometer stretch, on both sides of the road, I found over 50 cans and bottles! Usually, I’d find maybe half at most. 

But what truly shocked me was about ten feet off the road, this green bottle, giving off this blinding reflection. I picked up the bottle, and right beside it was another. And another one. A couple more. And a few more. The bottles were everywhere! They were pretty much in a pile! I’ve never had a find this big. 

I realized I couldn’t carry all of them, so I took a mental picture, remembered the landmarks, grabbed some empty boxes, drove back to the spot, and picked up 55 liquor bottles! And the bottles were all Jägermeister. Plus, given how many there were, they were all dumped by someone. 

What started as an innocent walk and some interesting finds turned into a full-blown operation. I mapped out the whole area, dividing it into sections, turning it to a grid. I was fully committed to this endeavour, determined to finish my mission. Until mid-April, my schedule was the same; get up, have breakfast, then go out and find some buried treasure. It was like heading off to work in the mines or prospecting for gold. It’s a win-win-win: Get some exercise, clean up the road, enjoy the countryside, and make some money.

After four weeks, I finished and accumulated a large stash of loot in my garage. I’m confident that most I found were recent. People not wanting to wait until the beer stores opened to return them, not having space for recycling, or just too lazy to deal with it.

I walked for a total of 90 kilometres. When I returned the empties to the Beer Store – which took four trips in two days – I earned nearly $170! I found 1200 beer cans alone, never mind the beer and wine bottles.

While I’m very proud of this, how much I found is very disheartening. Either people are lazy and polluting the environment, or worse, still drinking and driving. After all these years, have we learned nothing? Remember Marco Muzzo? Just wait to throw it in the recycling. Or better, it shouldn’t be empty in your car while driving. Stricter laws should be in place for drinking and driving, with no exceptions or negotiated sentences. Maybe even the Beer Stores can offer more than ten cents per return. Or accept even soda cans. I’m sure they make enough already, and even more with returns. Give people a good reason to save their empties.

For the past couple of years, I’ve just stuck to my road, but even so, I’m finding far too many. Hopefully, one day I’ll find so few, or even better, none. I don’t mind.

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