I missed the “blue binners” controversy in this paper by a few weeks. I was busy having a binner controversy of my own.
I am startlingly lazy, which means I don’t return wine and beer bottles and cans to the store for whatever refund they nickel-and-dimed me for when I purchase them. I have no interest in building a stash until I lump them all to some place, usually managing to leak onto the carpet of my vehicle so it smells like a beer parlour. Instead, I put them out in recycling.
As a kid, gathering up beer empties was a source of income. I used to scour the local parks on Saturday and Sunday mornings, grocery bags swinging from the handles of my bike as I scored two cents a bottle and felt like a Pilsner princess. My father was immensely proud; he had no problem building a wall of beer empties himself and would add my grungy collection to his horde and, more often than not, let me keep the entire reward. The best day of my young life was finding a 24 case intact, and balancing it home on my handlebars. My father was bursting with pride; my mother ran and hid.
For several years now, I know a man has quietly come and retrieved my empties. This is OK with me; hell, this is a variation of what I used to do. I try to separate things out for him, even. He uses a cart and he is incredibly tidy. Have at it, Recycling Man, I say to myself.
At Christmas, there was an envelope tucked under the wiper blade of one of the cars in the driveway. It was a card from Recycling Man, thanking us. I took it as a sign he appreciated my thoughtfulness; my sister said it was a sign the household drank too much.
But a couple of weeks ago, a car pulled up outside my house. I’d put my blue bins out perhaps an hour before, and as I watched from inside, a couple rifled through them and also snagged a couple of 12 packs I’d neatly stacked beside the bins. For my Recycling Man. Not for some couple who were driving door to door. Don’t ask me why I cared who took away something I was chucking out; that is not the point. For some reason, that is not the point.
The other evening I was still out front when the familiar car pulled up to my curb, yet again. Out hopped a woman who immediately grabbed my bins and began to hand bottles and cans through the open door to the driver. I stared at her.
“I’m taking all your beer empties for you,” she said.
“I see that. But they’re not yours.”
I could have told her they are technically now the city’s, or still mine if they’re on my lawn. There is a never-enforced fine for people raiding blue bins, and the city has a return policy with a contractor for my empties. No, I wasn’t bothering to argue that she was breaking the law.