Tag Archives: Victoriana

Thank Your Local Scavengers


Somewhere in the latter half of the 20th C. we got out of the habit of recycling. Recycling was positively normal before WW2. It’s just that the poor did it for the better off, or lazier.

Today, we’re expected to do it ourselves. But after two in the morning, through this bar zone come the fellows with their shopping carts, or just carrying a trash bag, the latter maybe on a bike. They look for plastic and glass bottles and aluminum drink cans left on the curb (or my building’s lawns) by drinkers, and smokers on break. They check the outside trash cans. Some brave souls flip open the lids on the dumpster in front of the karaoke joints, and climb in to see what’s been tossed there. There’s three or four that work the trash cans at Waipahu Transit Center, different nights or different times. (In Hawaii, there’s a deposit on beverage containers, to boot.)

This is an ancient task.

Sure, it’s never been a high-class activity, but it was always an honest buck (or shilling). Some working-class Victorians did it as a sideline, just keeping their eyes open on their walk to and from regular work, for scrap paper, rags, bottles, dog’s dropped teeth.

Read the rest of this entry