Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Bottle District

New York has a Garment District, a Theater District, a Financial District, but did you know it has a Bottle District? Well, at least Harlem does. There are probably others elsewhere in the city. But you see, the Pathmark grocery store at 145th Street has a bottle recycling station on the side of it, where you can take your recyclables, be they plastic, glass, or tin, and get the 5 or 10-cent deposit for recycling them. Naturally, this is where all those people go that you see with the shopping carts full of bottles and cans. Saturday morning seems to be the day when they all go cash in their bottles and cans for the big bucks. A long line of people stretches down the block, each with their bulging sacks of plastic and metal recyclables.

What I discovered today is that, just a few blocks away from the Pathmark, a burgeoning business of bottle sorting takes place every Saturday morning. On my way to Pathmark this morning, I happened upon it. At the intersection of 142nd and Bradhurst, there were dozens of people sorting bottles on the sidewalks surrounding a tiny park. Children, old folks, men and women. Stacks and stacks of bottles. Nearby, what used to be a school-bus, now painted bright green, was parked in the middle of the street, advertising a bottle-buying business. People were lined up at the bus doorway to cash in their bottles and cans. It was a festive scene on an especially fine and sunny Spring morning. These people no doubt see each other every week as they congregate to sort, trade, and sell their bottles and cans, as well as socialize.

I had five empty Diet Coke bottles in my bag that I had intended to drop in the recycling machine at Pathmark in exchange for 25 cents, but when I saw the long line of people, I decided to give up. There was no way I could ever compete with these big-time recyclers and their trash-bags full of bottles. They would have laughed to see me join their line with my meager little collection, the result of at least four months of saving up (I don't really drink a lot of soda). So, if you can't beat 'em... I just donated my bottles to a lady waiting in the line, and hurried on in to Pathmark to do my shopping.

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