Tuesday, June 9, 2009

1000 Bottles of Beer by the Road

When I met my husband, I became a hiker. I'm pretty certain I wouldn't have been allowed to marry into the family if I hadn't developed a love of hiking. :) The motto of most hikers is "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints". After my first few hiking excursions, I started to notice that no matter where we went, it seemed that someone had been leaving beer cans and bottles in their wake. This bothered me on a couple of different levels. First off, the environmentalist in me was disgusted that people couldn't bother to take their trash back out with them. I mean, they carried it in with them, and the bottles and cans are a lot heavier when they're full! Secondly, my frugal heart hated the fact that each of those cans and bottles was worth 10 cents!

I decided that I should start bringing bags with me when we hike, so I could pick up those discarded empties. Sadly, I've only rarely been able to come home with an empty bag, and my hike yesterday was no exception. My habit of picking up the empties became so well-known that it made it's way into no less than THREE speeches at our wedding (my parents, his parents, the best man...thanks go out to my husband for not including it in his speech!). I call it environmentalism with a kickback; it's definitely not a hobby I'd recommend if you're really trying to increase your income, more of a bonus for the warm-fuzzy feeling you get while helping to keep the world greener.

In Ontario, 98% of beer empties were returned to The Beer Store (the only place in Ontario that sells beer and handles the deposits). This is an amazing return rate. According to their press release, over 2 billion empties were returned for deposit in the 2007/2008 year. Which means that over 40, 000 empties were NOT returned; either going to a municipal recycling program, a landfill, or our streets and hiking trails.

Since I enjoy tracking numbers, I thought I'd see how long it takes me to collect enough empties to return for $100. At 10 cents per empty that's 1000 beer bottles or cans....I prefer the cans, they're a lot lighter to carry while hiking! Why $100? It's a nice round number. So is $10, but $100 is 10x more impressive. :) I'm hoping that it will take a LONG time to find that many empties that were just discarded into the environment, but it'll be interesting to see what the exact amount of time is. Starting June 8, 2009 I'll be keeping count of my empties, and you can view my progress in the side bar of this blog. Any guesses on how long it'll take? Keep in mind I don't go hiking every weekend, but I'll be including anything I pick up on walks around my neighbourhood as well.


  1. Do you still pick up empties today? The last 4-5 years, I've been doing the same while riding my motor bicycle. 2 summers ago I collected approximately $500 worth, tax free. I was out for my first ride this year and picked up$18 worth on a 15 km ride. If you Google the collector/Peterborough Examiner, you'll see a story the Peterborough Examiner published in there newspaper a few years ago.

  2. I'm getting too old to peddle, that's why I bought the @ stroke engine kit and put it on my bicycle.