Yes you can

Susan Flanagan
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MUN students aim to aid recycling pros

— Illustration by The Telegram

I met Carter in a dumpster on the St. Pius X parking lot off Elizabeth Avenue. I passed a business card in over the rusty metal rim; he took it in his blackened hand and we’ve been in business ever since.

Carter is a collector of recycling. You may have seen him around. Unlike most recyclers, he makes his way west along Elizabeth Avenue. Tanned, muscular and mustachioed, Carter appears happy. Ever since our chance meeting we have an unwritten contract. Every two weeks, Carter comes to my house and takes away all my beverage containers. It’s a great service. He’s happy. I’m happy. The environment is happy. (Note: my last collector, Roy, was not well physically and simply disappeared — I’m hoping he’s in a care facility but I fear a worse fate for him).

Here’s what a working day looks like for Carter. In the morning he leaves his Cabot Street residence pushing a shopping cart on the downtown hills. He stops at his clients’ houses and relieves them of their recyclables that are worth money. He works his way through Georgetown, over to Torbay Road and Elizabeth Avenue, sometimes stopping to cash in beer bottles for a pack of smokes. By the time he reaches our house, Carter’s trolley is usually quite packed.

When he first started coming I assumed he left our house to roll his shopping cart five minutes up the road to the Elizabeth Avenue Green Depot. But after a couple of visits and more chatting, I learned Carter has been excommunicated from that depot for soliciting recyclables from people in the parking lot. I wasn’t present at the time of the alleged infractions, so I only have his side of the story. So, once he has a full load of east end wine bottles and soda cans he crosses town to visit the depot on O’Leary Avenue. Surprisingly, Carter doesn’t complain. He has a good work ethic. You may notice his lean, five-foot-six frame making its way west.

I thought about Carter just before I left for my vacation. Although I wouldn’t be home I knew he could still get our recyclables in the backyard, but I had wanted to chat more with him about a new program initiated by Memorial University’s SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) program which is “focused on improving our communities through the positive power of business” and has won numerous international awards. A couple of weeks ago when a Memorial University student came to my door, I was sure she was collecting for something and ran to get a few loonies. But rather than asking for money, she handed me a pamphlet from SIFE Memorial about a new program called Yes We Can, which to me sounded like a Bob the Builder video title. Yes We Can involves an initiative to assign recyclers to certain neighbourhoods. An interesting concept. For the recyclers it means less distance travelled for hopefully more product. It’s a fantastic idea.

SIFE will help the collectors with marketing and consumer trust. It sounds like a win-win situation. But the first time I spoke to Carter about it, he said he’s worried about the new system.

“I’ve had customers over here for seven years,” he says. “What are they going to think (if I get assigned to a new neighbourhood)?”

Perhaps assigning collectors to specific neighbourhoods is like assigning house painters to neighbourhoods. It makes perfect sense logistically. The painters finish one house and move on to the next one in the area that needs painting rather than packing up their gear in East Meadows and moving to another project in Mount Pearl. But what about the clients? They may prefer their favourite painting firm. And the painters themselves may have clients who they’ve worked with for years. Could a turf war ensue like the time another collector tried to take Carter’s cache of tin cans at my house?

I must say I would miss Carter if he was assigned to Georgetown, which is closer to his neighbourhood, and I no longer got to see him. I like it when he drops by. He’s always pleasant in the chill of winter or in driving rain. He asks for nothing but he’ll take a hoodie if it’s chilly or a fresh baseball cap and is ever grateful for cold water or a snack. On the other hand, I would like to see him be able to collect more recyclables in less time and without having to cover such a distance.

So will the SIFE program work? I emailed Jon King, the Yes We Can contact, to ask him what kind of reception the program has had. His response was enthusiastic and encouraging.

“We are actually spreading our project beyond our first pilot participant,” he emailed back. “We now have three and are always looking to help more participants. We make the project unique for each collector and try to stay as close to their old route as much as possible. If you could tell me how to get in touch with (Carter) I would be more than happy to see how we may be of service to him.”

So rather than forcing collectors to take a specific neighbourhood, King and the Yes We Can program are there to help any interested collectors set up in a designated district.

“By running successful routes, participants will no longer struggle to find their daily quota of recyclables. They will get more money and endure less hardship. You will get a frequent recycling pickup and our city will enjoy a greened future,” says the brochure.

So the program is a great idea, open to those who choose to partake. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting involved, you can contact King at

Then every Tuesday you can leave your recycling by your door and someone will come along and collect them. And you’ll know you are doing your bit to make the earth a cleaner place and at least one person’s life easier.

Susan has changed the name of her collector to protect his identity. She can be reached at

Care feedback:

Melissa writes: “Wonderful and informative article. My family just recently began the process of putting a loved one in a home, unfortunately for us, she didn’t make it out of the hospital. The care providers in these facilities are wonderful indeed.”

Jaydee writes: “Wonderfully informative article. We could have sure used all this info a couple of years ago when we had to put my beloved Auntie in a home. I’m sure it will be a help to a lot of families struggling with these decisions. God Bless.”

Connie writes: “Just read your article though both my own and my hubby’s parents have passed onto their reward. I found the article very informative as a heads up of what I/we need to have in place now, while we are well in all respects, so that things will go more smoothly for ourselves and children when that time comes. Thank you for the information and positive comments on your dad’s experience.”

Organizations: Elizabeth Avenue Green Depot, Free Enterprise

Geographic location: Elizabeth Avenue, Georgetown, Cabot Street Torbay Road O’Leary Avenue East Meadows Mount Pearl

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