Nova Scotians 'throwing away money,' veteran bottle collector says

Adam Conrod was 17 when he first went looking for refundables at the side of the road in Nova Scotia. Now 20 years later, he likes to call himself a professional.

Collecting cans and bottles is "a lot like going fishing," says the Porters Lake resident. "Sometimes you'll collect all kinds and sometimes you won't get any."

Conrod, who turned 38 on Monday, says he spends approximately four hours a day, 10 days a month, searching for recyclables in ditches in his neighbourhood and in other Nova Scotia communities like Fall River, East Lawrencetown, East Chezzetcook, Dartmouth and Halifax.

When he started as a teenager, Conrod says he was just hoping to earn some lunch money. Nowadays, he makes approximately $60 a month, which he spends on bicycle repairs and paying bills.

It doesn't seem like a lot of money, given how much time Conrod spends on the side of the highway in all kinds of weather. But he says he still finds it rewarding — even after two decades in the ditches.

Conrod recalls one day in East Lawrencetown when somebody pulled over to thank him for cleaning up the community.

"[It's] things like that," he says, "that I'll probably remember forever."

Travels by bike

Conrod rides his bicycle as he hunts for bottles, carrying his bag of recyclables on the handlebars. He says he can't handle more than one bag or it affects his balance. So once the bag is full, "I call 'er quits."

While safety is "always on my mind," Conrod says he's never had any close calls — even when he rides his bike on the shoulder of Highway 107.

Better incentive needed

It's disappointing to see how many refundables people throw away, Conrod says.

"You're throwing away money," he says, adding that the litter creates a mess.

Conrod wants the province to increase the refund amount on cans and bottles — from five cents to 10 cents for most beverage containers — as an incentive for more people to return them.

He also suggested increasing the deposit customers pay upfront.

The province responds

A spokesperson for Nova Scotia's Environment Department, Chrissy Matheson, says the province already has a "very high recovery rate for beverage containers, at 80.8 per cent."

Matheson says due to "our success in recovery rates," the department has no plans to raise the fees, which were set in 1996 when the program was first introduced.

She also adds that Nova Scotia's model is "in line" with what's happening in the other Maritime provinces.

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