September 18, 2019

Make Your Workout Pay; Collecting Cans While You Run

This topic has nothing to do with astronomy, except for the fact that the idea may be considered as well, in outer space to some. I live in and grew up in the state of Maine. Maine has a long tradition as being one of the first states to offer a return deposit for cans going back to 1976. I vividly remember spending endless hours peddling rural back roads looking for discarded cans. Back then return rates were in .05, .10, .20, and .50 increments… now they’re .05 for cans and bottles and .15 for large liquor bottles (I wonder why the rate hasn’t increased with the price of soda and beer?) Still, in the 1970s a dollar could buy you a comic (50 cents… “Destroy the Justice League, Super-Villians!”) and an ice cream or soda (or pop, as we say in Maine…and the redemption cycle continues.)
Years later, returning to Maine after a twenty year stint in the military, I’m noticing more bottles and cans than ever beside the road. I wonder if kids do dedicated sweeps for cans now or if they care not for the “chump change” that it generates. Certainly, it would probably take some time in effort to buy an Ipod at a nickel a can.
Then a thought occured to me; why not pick up recycleables while on my daily workout runs? Within a few weeks, I collected a respectable amount to return. I would guess-temate I made maybe 25$ in the first month, not rent money, but maybe oh say, half a tank of gas. Plus, if you look closely at your checkout receipt, you’ll realize your paying for that deposit. Yup. The great state of Maine passes that nickel charge on to you to hold on to that alumminum can. By “picking bottles”, your getting someone elses nickel, although I wouldn’t say its free; I run hard.
Anyway, here’s some tips and tricks I have learned;
1. Vary your route- I have three basic routes I run from our home on Saint Froid Lake. I try to squeeze in runs at different locales if errands draw me away.
2. Bring a few garbage bags in a fanny pack along- Even crushed cans take up space.
3. Heavily trafficed routes (like state route #11) get more can & bottle tossage.
4. Times like Sunday and right after snow melt reveal more plunder.
5. Keep an easy accessable stash point at home for all collected cans and bottles.
6. Return stash at least once a month.
7. Do not drive to your locale solely for a scavaging run; the gas burned will probably negate anything collected. For example, my Outlander gets about 20mpg (blame it on the AWD!). With gas at about 3.00 per gallon, I burn about 15 cents per mile. I would have to collect an average of four cans (20 cents) per mile to make a 5 cent profit. Not a great return.

Will I ever get rich off of picking cans while I run? Probably not. Some may not like to have the “shopping cart wino” look about them. I’m never too proud. After all, some PhDs are homeless. Still, I like the idea of my passion for running making some money, even if it is just a token amount. At very least, 25$ dollars a month will pay my race entrance fees!

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