I wasn’t looking for an Unconsumption tie-in to tonight’s Academy Awards, but:
Among the five documentary shorts nominated for an Oscar this year is Redemption, a thirty-five minute film about New York City’s “canners”: the men, women, and children who collect bottles and cans from the city’s streets for their five-cent cash redemption value.
Edible Geography has a great analysis of the film and the issues it touches on, and implies. Read it here.
I want to highlight this bit of the writeup: Five-Cent Redemption.
That the opportunity to “can” exists at all in New York is due to the state’s Bottle Bill, enacted as part of environmental conservation legislation in 1982. Only eleven states in the U.S. have some kind of container deposit legislation, which occasionally leads to some cross-border shenanigans: a recent Los Angeles Times article pointed out that California’s 2011 redemption rate for plastic containers was an impressive but technically impossible 104 percent, and blamed “crafty entrepreneurs” driving “semi-trailers full of cans from Nevada or Arizona.”
Bottle Bills are usually promoted as an incentive to encourage the public to recycle more and throw away less. Various studies have shown that they do increase recycling rates dramatically: the United States’ overall beverage container recycling rate is estimated at thirty-three percent, while states with container deposit laws have an average rate of seventy percent. As watching a documentary like Redemption makes clear, however, a lot of this extra recycling and sorting is not being done by the consumers of canned or bottled beverages; instead, the state has outsourced its acts of environmental virtue, at far below minimum wage ($2.50 an hour at best, by my rough calculations), to some of its most marginalised populations.
The rest at: Five-Cent Redemption