today i was on my run (a rather enjoyable, leisurely one i might add) out on the county roads here in avon. the grass is starting to green up and the leaves are making their appearance, but the roadside ditch grass has yet to spring up (i almost said ditch weed but realized that had a different meaning). which means i see a bunch of garbage in the ditches, especially beer cans.
which made me have a moment of reminisce while i was out pounding the pavement.
every spring, my dad would take my siblings and me out to country roads to scour the ditches for aluminum cans so we could take them in for a nice payout at the recycling center. each of us was armed with a garbage bag and instructions to pick cans until the next driveway or road.
(this next part is lifted from a thing i wrote a few years ago for my thinkpiece on devil’s syrup that went nowhere.)
Thinking back, I wonder why we weren’t given gloves to protect our fingers; we ran into a lot of funky stuff in those ditches. Perhaps it was dumb luck or hopeful optimism. My dad parked his white, former USWest telephone van at the next crossroads or farm driveway, and with two of us on the left and two on the right, we scanned the ditches for cans. It wasn’t abnormal for us to walk away with the old van filled with sticky, yeasty smelling cans. Some summers those cans funded our vacations.
Recently I was talking to my sister Liz about the can pickup jaunts, and she wondered how we managed to gather so many cans. It took a moment of consideration, but I realized that in the 80s, plastic bottles were relatively non-existent. We had just made the jump from glass bottles to aluminum cans at the grocery store; plastic 20-ounce bottles had yet to make their debut. When you think about it, it’s really unfortunate that we migrated from two very recyclable materials for drinks to one that doesn’t recycle well at all (most plastic bottles are recycled into carpet) and takes years and years to biodegrade.