A young adult pushes a cart full of cans for recycling

Recycling Cans Part 2: Troubleshoot the Pickup

The parent of a young adult who is deafblind shares her experience of setting up a project to recycle cans in the community.

In a previous blog post I described my son David’s can recycling activity. In reality, it took months to settle upon the final version of this routine.  After a lot of trial and error, I learned that it’s important to choose a community partner that could provide the right amount of clean, recyclable cans. It’s also important to plan for cancellations and to keep in touch with community partners.  I try to call, visit or email a community partner once a quarter. Here is how I handled a few challenges:

Too many cans

David initially collected cans from a high school cafeteria. The high school, however, generated too many cans. Sometimes David would pick up three or four large trash bags full of cans — too many for him to recycle in one day. I tried to temporarily store the extra cans in the garage at David’s home, but this got complicated. The bags took up a lot of space and sometimes they leaked. I started to look for a nearby small business (with a small lunchroom) that would allow David to collect their cans.

Messy cans

 Another problem with cans from the high school was that the students didn’t consistently sort their recycling; paper trash and discarded food would appear in David’s collection bins. The students would put chewing gum on their cans or throw full, opened cans of soda into the bin. It got messy. I attempted to resolve this with the school staff, but the students continued to put trash in David’s can bins. I concluded that a business with smaller number of adult employees would be a better source of cans for David. When a small construction company agreed to have David collect their cans, I discontinued the pickup at the high school.

Beer bottles

At the construction company, beer bottles were occasionally tossed into David’s can collection bins. The glass bottles were dangerous. I discussed the problem with the company manager during one of our email exchanges. She placed a glass-only collection bin in the company’s lunchroom and convinced the employees to separate beer bottles from cans. 


It turns out that there are many reasons why the “recycling day” might be cancelled: David is sick, the CBDS doesn’t have a van, it’s a snow day, etc. This creates a problem for the community partner because the cans accumulate at the pickup site. Should the site save the cans or recycle them themselves? The company manager and I agreed to a plan: if David missed a pickup day, the site would discard the cans. 

It’s easy to get discouraged when a community activity fails the first, second or third time.  But with determination, flexibility and good communication, it is possible to overcome the challenges.


Collage of recycling and troubleshooting the pickup


By Helene Power

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