Recycler says he's Governor of Georgetown

Gavin Simms
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Two front teeth wouldn't go astray, but all Wayne Skinner really wants for Christmas are bottles and cans.

He's the self-proclaimed Governor of Georgetown, the king of recycling.

The 54-year-old has been in the bottle business for more than 12 years - strolling the aisles of downtown St. John's with his shopping cart seeking empties.

Wayne Skinner pays his weekly visit to the Georgetown area, collecting recyclables. Photo by Gavin Simms/Special to The Telegram

Two front teeth wouldn't go astray, but all Wayne Skinner really wants for Christmas are bottles and cans.

He's the self-proclaimed Governor of Georgetown, the king of recycling.

The 54-year-old has been in the bottle business for more than 12 years - strolling the aisles of downtown St. John's with his shopping cart seeking empties.

In his signature neon yellow vest and turtleneck, he's become a bit of a local celebrity from Rabbittown down.

With hundreds of loyal customers who hand their empty beverage containers over to him every week, Skinner's finally able to put food on the table and pay the bills.

Wayne's mom passed away in 1991. It left him heartbroken and lost.

"I wasn't able to eat. I didn't want to smoke or drink. I had nobody. My mother was gone and my brothers took care of me."

All of a sudden, Skinner realized it was time to take things into his own hands and turn his life around.

He quit smoking and drinking and even cursing. He stepped outside the door and started surviving on his own.

Skinner only made it as far as Grade 10 in school and felt limited in his options. But he'd always heard about people collecting bottles for extra cash. He always said, "nah, there's no money into it." It used to be three cents per can back then.

Now, under a new light, it seemed worth a try. He started with the dump; rooting around at night for whatever recyclables he could get his hands on. He'd come back rotten, clothes ruined, with just enough to feed himself.

He knew what he had to do. He got himself a cart from Evergreen Recycling, zipped up his vest and started making his rounds, door to door.

In no time he had blocks of people on his list and he gets new customers every day.

He's knocked on pretty much every door his fist can find.

He doesn't have a phone. He doesn't advertise. He roams.

Skinner might not weigh any more than a hundred pounds, but he can handle a heavy cart. He doesn't stop 'till it's completely loaded and spilling over.

"Where there's a hole I can tie it on," he says. "It's the tea and the caffeine that keeps me goin'. Four teaspoons of sugar."

On a good day he makes a decent dollar at what he does. This past Saturday he carried off $68.16 worth of bottles from one house alone.

He once asked the supervisor at Evergreen Recycling for a job. He was told, 'No, Wayne, you make way too much for us. You get paid more than we do'.

But Skinner's not the only one at it full-time. There's competition, yet thankfully for him, they all have their own collecting grounds.

If his mom were looking down on him now, Skinner's pretty sure she'd be proud of her youngest son.

"I am the top-notch recycler. I am the king of recycling. I'm cleaning up the neighbourhood. I'm like Norm from Cheers - everybody knows my name."

Since the start of December there's been a red bow tied to the front of Wayne's cart. It's his way getting into the season of giving.

Everyday he's given so much by complete strangers, in the way of recyclables.

Spreading a little Christmas spirit is the least he can do to return the favour, he says.

He's been happily married for the past three years, to his wife, Diane.

"Back then it was all a struggle. Now - happiness. Me and Diane are like this," he says with his fingers tightly crossed.

"We do not fight. We do not argue. We share everything. I take care of her and she takes care of me. The only one I look up to now is her. She's the right one."

He believes he's a better man than he's ever been and better off for it.

"I'm healthy as a horse and happy as a clam," he says with a smile that stretches the full width of his face."

Organizations: Evergreen Recycling

Geographic location: Georgetown, St. John's, Rabbittown

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  • Gary
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Truly an inspiration. Way to go Wayne !!!
    You faced adversity and found a way to over come your challenges. I wish you nothing but the best.

    Great Story !!

  • Kelly
    July 02, 2010 - 13:28

    Best of the holidays to you Wayne. Many could learn from you in both your attitude and actions.

    Cheers!

  • Sharon
    July 02, 2010 - 13:25

    I have know Wayne, Governor for the past 30 years and he truly is a wonderful person. Every person he meets whether for the first time or has seen that person everyday he gives a big smile and hug to them. Keep up the hard work Wayne, God Bless and have a wonderful New Year.

  • monty
    July 02, 2010 - 13:24

    Great story,...truly inspiring,I would like to make this man my Vice President.
    Just kidding, it really is a cool story,working through adversity as he did.I wish I were in his space

  • Saucy Face
    July 02, 2010 - 13:23

    Nice to see a story about a real person on the front page for a change and not some over bloated politician or other ego saying Look at me, aint I great! beggar.

  • Steve
    July 02, 2010 - 13:13

    Great work Wayne. Keep on recycling. I'm originally from the St. John's area and I've seen yourself and others pushing those carts. It's hard work.
    Keep smiling. You're doing a good job.

  • VRP
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    Very uplifting story!

  • Gary
    July 01, 2010 - 20:16

    Truly an inspiration. Way to go Wayne !!!
    You faced adversity and found a way to over come your challenges. I wish you nothing but the best.

    Great Story !!

  • Kelly
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Best of the holidays to you Wayne. Many could learn from you in both your attitude and actions.

    Cheers!

  • Sharon
    July 01, 2010 - 20:11

    I have know Wayne, Governor for the past 30 years and he truly is a wonderful person. Every person he meets whether for the first time or has seen that person everyday he gives a big smile and hug to them. Keep up the hard work Wayne, God Bless and have a wonderful New Year.

  • monty
    July 01, 2010 - 20:09

    Great story,...truly inspiring,I would like to make this man my Vice President.
    Just kidding, it really is a cool story,working through adversity as he did.I wish I were in his space

  • Saucy Face
    July 01, 2010 - 20:08

    Nice to see a story about a real person on the front page for a change and not some over bloated politician or other ego saying Look at me, aint I great! beggar.

  • Steve
    July 01, 2010 - 19:50

    Great work Wayne. Keep on recycling. I'm originally from the St. John's area and I've seen yourself and others pushing those carts. It's hard work.
    Keep smiling. You're doing a good job.

  • VRP
    July 01, 2010 - 19:44

    Very uplifting story!