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The Great Fort McMoney Recycling Scheme

September 12, 2012

This post was meant to be written long ago…

It was a sunny day in mid-May.  My coworker Gabrielle and I were driving around scouting out potential banding sites, and after mulling over an idea for a while, I finally spoke up.  “Hey, could you stop so I could pick up that pile of cans in the ditch?”  I was starting to notice cans and bottles everywhere, or so it seemed, and being a good environmentalist (and, I’ll admit, thinking about the potential of making a few extra bucks) I couldn’t stand just passing them by.

Soon Gabrielle joined in on my can and bottle collecting scheme, and we were going for walks in the campground and towards the village, bag in hand.

We cleaned up all our banding sites and the areas where we parked.  And then we started going for drives on our days off, eventually clearing the first 10 km of the gravel road that lead to four of our banding sites, and several kilometers of the nearby highway as well.  Apparently people in the oil sands make so much money they don’t care about the fact they are throwing money out the window when they toss out their empties.

Living at a fishing lodge that didn’t have recycling bins, we learned to ask our new neighbours if we could have their recyclables.  We also may have done some rummaging in the trash, raiding garbage cans at the lodge, in a provincial recreation area near one of our sites, and at gas stations and anywhere else I saw cans and bottles in the trash.  We got pretty into it.

(There were 86 bottles and cans in here, at one of our banding sites.

Who just leaves $8.60 behind?)

Yes, it was hard work, and often rather gross.   And we never got over how ridiculous we felt whenever we sorted empties on the lawn. (We tried to do it when there were few other guests around!)

But it was worth it.  I don’t think I made a single trip to Fort McMurray that didn’t start with a stop at the bottle depot.  The workers there recognized us and week by week the deposits we received back piled up.

In Alberta, containers 1L and under have a deposit of 10 cents and over 1L it is 25 cents.

(877 cans, so that’s $87.70!)

Partway through the summer, Gabrielle was transferred to another field location and Judiete came to join me.  I worried at first that she wouldn’t be as enthusiastic about amassing a pile of stinky bottles in the cabin, but she joined right in.  She even made a recycling sign for a bin that we kept on our porch that other guests were soon filling for us.

And after just 3 months, our recycling grand total equaled…


With my half of the money, I have plans to buy a bicycle.  I’ve been shopping online but I may have to wait until next year to get the one I want… stay tuned for an update on the bicycle that recycling bought.

I’ve still been picking up cans and bottles here in BC, but the deposit is only 5 cents for small containers and 20 cents for large ones, and people seem much less inclined to throw recyclables in ditch or garbage… which is good for the environment, but bad for my spare change fund.

Have you ever thrown a recycable bottle or can into the trash?  WHY?

If you see a can or bottle on the ground, do you pick it up?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jennie Frances permalink
    September 12, 2012 6:58 pm

    I picked up cans that were obvious on our way from Mugaha? Marsh to McKenzie and then a few more on the way back from B.C. I am thinking about cashing in some to use for a World Vision Christmas campaign to give families chickens, seeds, donkeys or other things to help them make money. I have been wanting to do that for awhile now and just came up with the recycle idea to make the cash for it. Seems like a good idea to help others.

  2. Ed Golem permalink
    September 13, 2012 7:00 am

    When I was a kid we used to go out to the highway and collect bottles for pocket money. That was long before anybody thought about recyling. It was purely economics. Pop cans in Ontario do not have a refund but can be put in the blue box. Good on you for a great clean-up, monetarily and environmentally.

  3. Gabrielle permalink
    September 27, 2012 10:11 pm

    Aw I just saw this post… good times! Did I ever send you the other pictures? I am a bad friend!

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