28 November 2012

Battle of the bottles

The deposit on bottles and cans is pretty high here. There was a time when collecting them was for children, but those days are over, it is now a serious business. The professional collectors have entered the market, and they have come a long way to sort through the garbage cans of Copenhagen.

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Check out this super cool invention, making it possible to cover longer distances and keep the harvest safe.

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He was not comfortable with me taking pictures of it, as witnessed by his anxious elbow. But it was too good to miss (I was seriously impressed, but the more I tried to explain it to him, the worse it got. I may have broken a number of unwritten rules right there).

Knowing this is someone's living, it is not unusual for people to leave their bottles behind on the ground or on the bench, to spare the collectors the humiliation of searching through the garbage cans. But they do anyway, of course, as every bottle counts.


This is the latest thing, a clever move. And good for the lakes too.

I had sort of gotten used to all that, but lately I have noticed elderly natives joining the collectors, and that really hurts. Living in Denmark is expensive because everything is taxed out of orbit, and because food prices are controlled by a few giant corporations, keeping them artificially high. The fact that people who have worked their whole life, and now deserve a break, have to go through the garbage to make ends meet, kills me. But I am afraid that it is only a matter of time before I will get used to the sight of that too.


20 comments:

  1. The name for bottle collectors hers is "Redeemers" - which I rather like. Shopping carts "borrowed" from grocery stores are a popular transport mechanism, such as this one: http://goo.gl/3c6xd

    You will frequently see families walking through stadium parking lots after a sporting event has started, looking for returnable bottles and cans discarded by tailgating fans. At 5 cents per return, it can add up. Slowly, but it does add up.

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    1. Maybe we will develop a special name for it too, eventually. Depending on the size and item, the deposit is between 1 and 3 Danish Crowns ($0.17-$0.52), so even a single grocery bag amounts to a decent sum.

      I talked to one of the foreign collectors a couple of years ago in the meat packing district, and he told me that in the summertime he can make about 500 DKR (US$86) on a good weekend night. Just by picking up the bottles outside, where people hang out.



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  2. Your local "bottle pick-up service":

    http://www.sugarhigh.de/issue/423-plastic-bottle-pick-service

    http://www.pfandgeben.de/

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  3. But as I wrote earlier on my blog, some of the bottlecollectors fight the homeless for the bottles, I witnessed that.

    Really sad to think of.

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    1. That is just disgusting, ugh.

      You can really feel the tension building, there are a lot of collectors now, and at peak hours they have gone from hovering to almost pulling it out of your hands before you are done. Still you are left feeling like a monster if you get irritated. But I do, at times. There, I said it.

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  4. I remember being at Faelledparken for May 1, sitting on the grass with my friends and being hounded for my cans of beer which weren't even empty yet. It was a little unsettling. These were foreign collectors, haven't seen native ones yet...

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    1. It gets hairy at times, I agree. And there are so many collectors now that I wonder if it is all worth their while? Maybe things would be more relaxed if the deposit was not so high? Not worth fighting over, in smaller quantities.

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    2. That wouldn't be a good idea, because if you lower the deposit for a can, then there would be almost no incentive for people to keep the cans and recycle them, they would just throw them away, making the deposit purposeless! And the thing about "foreign" collectors, that is just racist. I have seen many propper danish people collecting cans!

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    3. Even at half value, the bottles would be recycled, the deposit here is excessive. And please, with the racist comment? Not cool.

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    4. What do you mean? Isn't it racist to say that all the collectors that you've seen are foreign? It's like saying that all DK's criminals are Muslims!

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    5. If all you come across is foreign collectors, it is not racist to state so. I have communicated with a lot of them in my research, and the majority of the ones I talked to are not Danish. That is just a fact. Get over this. No one is making racist statements on my blog, not even in the comments section. Although naming others so, comes pretty close.

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  5. Remove the deposit. We attract people to leave their homes in other countries to live on our streets. In harsh weather, unhealthy enviroment and a "mafia"-like system. In return everyone has lost their consciousness, throwing bottles wherever it pleases them.

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    1. I have been trying to come up with a solution to this escalating problem as well, and I partly agree with you. Completely removing the deposit will create a massive litter problem, that I am pretty sure of.

      But there is no reason why our deposit should be so insanely high. A more reasonable deposit would make it less expensive to buy in the first place, and there will always be someone collecting/returning the bottles even they have only a small value.

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    2. That is just to say that the litter situation would still be under control, but the incentive for people to go to war over the empty bottles, was reduced.

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    3. SO, you would be relying on homeless people to recycle your cans... that's just not good enough. It's not moral, and you wouldn't be solving your problems about homelessness and excessive litter!

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    4. What? I recycle my own cans and bottles, thank you very much. If you look in any supermarket, you will notice it is common practice. When it comes to the bottles left in the public space, they are not left there to mock anyone. I don't see it as relying on homeless people at all. The unfortunate thing is that homeless people have come to rely on the deposit bottles.

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  6. I do not intend to be rude in my next few lines, excuse me if I am so: You are not reading my statements properly. I said that if you were to reduce the deposit, you would be lowering the incentive for people to recycle them! I know that the incentive now is high, and that is why it works!!
    Citing what you said: "and there will always be someone collecting/returning the bottles even they have only a small value"; That is when I answer, then you WOULD be relying on poor people to do the recylcing, it's implicit in your own sentence. Furthermore, if the incentive was to be lowered, people with relatively high incomes, PERHAPS wouldn't trouble themselves with returning the bottles, cans, etc. As a matter of fact, it seems that NOW, with the current value of the deposit, it still isn't high enough for people to keep the cans with themselves and return them later... the cost/benefit balance for many people still inclines towards throwing the cans to the trash, and that's where fattigrovs come into the system.

    Now, why Denmark has poor people that rely on collecting cans is a horse of a different colour!

    Beleive me, the deposit is perfectly reasonable. In fact,the other day, in my seat in the S-tog, there was a plastic bottle laying around empty: I took it, and recycled it. I did it for the ecological purpose, but deep inside, I know I perhaps wouldn't have done it if there was no economical incentive!! don't you agree with this?

    Bye bye!

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    1. Simply put: no, we don't agree. But that is okay.

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    2. What is it that you don't agree with?

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  7. Det ville være tåbeligt at sætte panten ned. Men det er okay.

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