Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Nickeled and Dimed

Pathetic. My lack of writing in has been just sad.

I have still been collecting and recycling cans. I have not kept up my full vigor of peeking in trash cans every time I fill up the gas tank. I have become more timid when battling the office cleaning lady, a friend of mine, who came up to me angrily and said, "Someone emptied the recycling this weekend!" I told her it was me. It was getting overfull and I felt I was doing her a favor. She felt I was taking her recyclables.

It seems to be a battle for every nickel nowadays. My husband and I had a date to Olive Garden last week, because he'd won a gift card there. Our friends who were thoughtfully watching our kids lamented that we weren't going to a nicer, fancier, flashier restaurant. And my thought was, "That would cost at least twice as much as our gift card. Do you KNOW how many cans that is?" And I chuckled to myself. I don't think of everything in cans, really I don't.

But I was not surprised this past weekend to find another family, a man and his two kids, about 10 and 12, unloading about 6 trash cans full of recycling. They made over $60. (Although they did hold up the line for quite a while, using both machines.) It seems recycling has been catching on. And for others, it has been a steady, though minimal line of income. A man came up and recycled 30 cents worth of cans. I don't know what he was going to do with that 30 cents. Maybe he was going to save up. Probably he didn't have the means to keep carrying around those bottles all day. Another man who seemed to know him mentioned, "It's been really hard to find cans lately." People are making every nickel count.

And though I am lucky and get paid around $22 an hour when I can get the work, I still like to use this way of savings to go to my kids. I've been picking up extra hours lately, so my husband dropped off the cans last month and just this week I dropped off about 7 bags of assorted recycling to pick up $20.35.

It doesn't make a whole lot of sense for me to do this when I have the work, but when I don't, like when things slow waaaay down and our clients just don't have any assignments for us, it's something to make sure we can still put something away.
Also, it always makes sense to recycle.

The total after this week's recycling trip: 407 cans, $20.35
GRAND TOTAL: 11,649 cans, $582.48

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's the Little Things

It's the little things in life that make us happy.

Like today, when-- though I am home because I have no work-- (meaning I'm not getting paid) I found that not only could I take in my recycling without worrying about lines or juggling the kids or long lines, I can now PUT THE PLASTIC BOTTLES IN THE MACHINE! This is a little blessing, but instead of whatever you get for a plastic bottle by weight (I estimate about three cents) you now can get the full five cents that you pay in the store returned to you.

So, with a bag of recycling from my husband's office (still astonished at how many full bottles of juice and water get tossed in there) and several bags from my friends Greg and Jenny, $22.55 is going into my daughter's bank account.

That equals 451 bottles and cans saved from the landfill, put into recycling and also benefitting my kids.

Other things that make me happy today?
Making pumpkin chocolate chip cookies with my kindergarten daughter and my very tired son curling up on my lap on the couch while we watch old movies. These are the things I will remember when I'm old and grey. Missing a few day of work? Not so much.

GRAND TOTAL: 11,242 cans, $562.13

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thank you, B!

I just want to say thank you to an out of town friend who has given me my first Internet donation for the Five Million Can project. A friend from high school (who I didn't even realize read this blog) donated her cans to me this week. I got a surprise PayPal donation for $2.65 (53 cans worth of nickels). Thank you so much, B! It was a lovely surprise this week.

And in other pleasant news, lets take a look at other ways plastic bottles can help kids' education: A SCHOOL MADE OUT OF PLASTIC BOTTLES!

The cost of building new classrooms and schools shouldn't prohibit students in the developing world from accessing a quality education, but new construction, even using inexpensive materials like cinder block, can run up a five-digit bill in construction costs. Now, Hug It Forward, a nonprofit in Guatemala, has figured out how to build new schools on a shoestring budget by turning the plastic bottles that litter the countryside's villages into raw construction materials.

A plastic school might sound like it's better suited for Barbies than for people, but the technology—developed by the Guatemalan nonprofit Pura Vida—is actually quite clever and allows for schools to be built for less than $10,000. The plastic bottles are stuffed with trash, tucked between supportive chicken wire, and coated in layers of concrete to form walls between the framing. The bottles make up the insulation, while more structurally sound materials like wood posts are used for the framing.

One added bonus of the nonprofit's work is educating local children about the environment by helping them gather the bottles that end up in their schools' walls. "They create the school that in turn creates opportunities for them," Hug It Forward staff write on the group's website. A two-classroom schoolhouse built by Hug it Forward in Granados used up 5,000 bottles, which otherwise would've kicked around the town's street or ended up in a trash heap. Hug it Forward has already built 12 schools around the country, with four more in the works.

Photo courtesy of Hug it Forward

$539.58 towards Sam and Max's education!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Accidents Happen

Well, it's that time of year. I can't say "again" because it's a first for us at our household. The first day of school.

Over the weekend, we first took in our recycling (hottest day of the year). So, Max and Samantha helped sort the bottles and cans. Max so wanted to put everything in the machine with the big green button, but a: the machine doesn't take everything and b: I don't want it to take his arm.)

So, after collecting $11.30 (226 nickels) for our efforts, we went to the Dollar Tree and then Walmart to pick up the remaining necessary school supplies.
Nothing like a hot, hot day and crowds of shoppers to make someone cranky, especially with a 5 year old and a little boy who insists that he's "two-half".
We got our markers, new shoes, waited (for nearly an hour!!!) to get a new booster seat and then Samantha reached into her pocket-- she'd been playing with and counting and recounting her "college money."

And then she realized it was all gone. She said "the cash" -- actually coins - thirty cents -- were still in her pocket, but the eleven dollars were gone.
I hate to say that I did lose my temper when she said, "It's okay, Mom. It's only money". Yes, in the long run, a loss of $11 is not that much. But, the whole point of this experiment is everything adds up little by little.

And after asking the one employee I could find to ask if any money had been turned in and receiving the "Are you stupid?" stare, we left. I was nearly in tears.

But, accidents happen. It's only money. And the more important part is that the cans got recycled. So, although it doesn't go toward our Five million can total, we recycled 226 cans and bottles this week.

Oh, and I will never shop at this Walmart again.
(Not that I usually shopped there anyway.)

So, Cans recycled this week: 226.
Cans that get counted towards our goal, zip.
Grand total stays at: 10,738 bottles and cans and $536.93
But, Greg just gave us a few bags of soda cans to take in. And another interesting note he made was not just "how many cans added up at my desk," but, "I can't believe I drank that much soda in a month!"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Service with a Smile?

I saw this recycle bin last week and it made me... smile. :)

But what made me smile even more is my biggest haul of the project so far. Literally, a haul. (And this is after last week's haul of aluminum cans and glass bottles.

This minivan full of plastic bottles (mostly) and a few cans rendered me with $44.00! Not bad for a couple hours of work. I recycled $38 worth of plastic. (At a nickel piece it'll be just over 760 bottles and 120 cans.) Just enough so that I had to fill all the seats with recyclable trash. I'm very glad that I live just a few blocks away from the recycling center since I only had one mirror that I could see out of and didn't want a ticket! So, this month's worth of cans, thank you to my brother Jordan, my friends Katherine and Mike, Ian and Deborah, Wes and Sam, and all of those friends who came with our family to the beach and of course to my husband who helps retrieve these bottles from far off subterranean garages, thank you! Hopefully, when my kids go to college, it will be completely paid for!

Thank you all!
Last week: $16.75 = 335 bottles and cans
This week: $44.00 = 880 bottles and cans.
Grand total: 10,738 bottles and cans and $536.93

Now I have some car cleaning to do!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

108 Days - The battle for cans rages on.

Yes, it's been 108 days, nearly a third of a year since I blogged last. Not the *best* way to keep up readership, I suppose.

Since my last post, much has happened. The first being, I got back my job. Yes, the same job I had before. I work for the company that blew me off and didn't willingly contact me for over a year. Doesn't sound like a bad boyfriend at all, does it? Anyway, I am back at work and had a huge project that had me working 6-7 days a week and sometimes 15 hours a day for over a month. So, that's why (excuses, excuses) I didn't post for a long time. However, I had time in May. I even had time in June. So, why didn't I post? I don't know. I've still been collecting my cans and bottles and recycling them. I have a complete stranger in Pasadena who contacts me when her bin is full. I also have some friends who will soon be moving to Canada who regularly contact me to come pick up their bin full of beer bottles. (Images of "Strange Brew" are coming into my head. Just joking, W&S.)

I don't know. How interesting can I make an update on my trash? I've been collecting approximately $25-$30 worth of recyclables every month, which is a great little fund for my kids. But it's not going to reach that 5 million can mark anytime soon. How do I enlarge what I'm doing to really make that mark? I've tried putting up bins at weekend craft fairs and festivals, with the sad realization that many people don't watch what they're doing and just put trash in recycling bins and recycling in trash bins, no matter what.

Also, with being back to work, the only time I can really deposit my cans are Saturdays, since now plastic bottles are no longer fully refundable. Yes, did you know that? You pay your 5-10 cents a bottle every time you make a purchase and the state of California, or the recycling center (not sure which) isn't required to give you the full refund unless you bring them in amounts of 50 bottles or less. If you bring in 50 or more, they can pay you by weight, which turns out to be much less. About 3 1/2 cents a bottle instead of 5, so 70% of what you pay into the system. And it's not that great for people like me who, at a goal of 5 million cans, don't want to bring them in 50 at a time. Especially when I can only drop them off on Saturdays, especially if I'm working on a Saturday or want to, you know, spend time with the people I'm collecting cans FOR.

(The following used to be the norm. Now, apparently, it is the exception. More and more places are paying by weight instead of fairly paying back the money we are charged when we purchase a bottled or canned beverage.)

Did you know there’s a way to get your beverage container recycling refunds on a per-container basis instead of by weight?

That’s right, California law allows you the option of being paid based on count instead of weight for up to 50 empty beverage containers of each material type.

This means you can bring up to 50 aluminum, 50 glass, 50 plastic and 50 bi-metal California Redemption Value containers in a single visit and request to be paid by count.

Consumers can also make more than one visit per day to a recycling center and be paid by count on each visit. Recycling centers are required to comply with this rule, found in the California Code of Regulations, Title 14, Chapter 5, Section 2535(b).

Any consumer who has been denied this right by a recycling center can file a complaint by emailing CalRecycle or by calling 1-800-RECYCLE.


Since this makes it a bit harder to actually tally how many bottles and cans I've recycled, my count will be slightly inaccurate. I will need MORE than five million cans if I'm going to reach my monetary goal. However, I can't complain too much, because after all, I'd still recycle even if I got paid nothing, and there are plenty of states that don't give any kind of refund for recycling. Yet, it somehow seems unfair that we are a: paying for the privilege of purchasing a bottle or can b: make the choice to return the entire bottle or can minus the beverage, and we don't even get a few pennies for our troubles. Seems like they're trying to make it less and less desirable to go get our refund, doesn't it?

Anyway, I will still approximate 5 cents per can and bottle for my can count, even though it is no longer accurate. The monetary count will be.

April 16, 2011 - $28.00
May 14, 2011 - $29.76
June 11, 2011 - $23.67

Approximate can/bottles recycled: 9,523

Friday, March 25, 2011

Purely Plants?

Here at the Five Million Can Project, recycling for money for my kids' education is not the only "green" thing we do. I also compost, meaning every piece of food that is not eaten is put into our compost bin. I don't enjoy watching food rot in the mini bin I have next to the sink (pee-ew) but it's kinda cool to dump it, cover it with a shovel, and come back a week or two later to find really dark soil. I also grow basil and am trying to grow blueberries. Trying, basically, NOT to kill the blueberry bush/plant that my friend gave me.

Growing the basil saves me $$ so I don't have to spend $3 or $4 every time I want some fresh stuff, and also saves the huge plastic container it comes in.

But bottles are an easy way that I can see what I'm doing. (Espcially when I keep count.)

But maybe one day, we won't have to recycle. Maybe we'll have fully biodegradable bottles and cans. Pepsi is already making a plant-based bottle, from things like the potato scraps, orange peels and banana peels some people put in their composter.

Check it out here:

But until then, I will keep my recycling up, even if it's just grabbing bottles from my friends. (Thank you, Miriam and Jordan.)

The past couple of weeks, I've reclaimed $5.75 and $3.55 worth of recyclables. This is $9.30 and 186 more, for a GRAND TOTAL of $394.75 and 7,895 cans! Think if this had just gone down the drain, being wasted. And think of the good that can come from a little bit of effort. Will you donate your cans to someone?