Overview, Mission and Goals
In New York State, the 1983 Bottle Bill encourages recycling by charging a refundable deposit $0.05 on most drink containers purchased. This law allows some among the homeless, particularly in New York City, to scrape together a living – albeit, a meager one – by collecting and redeeming cans and bottles discarded others. This work has come to be known as “canning.”
Due to the structure of the standard redemption process the activity of canning is so physically demanding, emotionally demeaning and logistically complex that many of New York’s homeless are effectively excluded from participating.
The overall goal of Sure We Can is to remove some of the current hardships that accompany canning; both for those who already use it as a means of survival and for those who would like to do so. Sure We Can was founded in 2007 by canners themselves, with the help of other concerned New Yorkers, including business people and members of the clergy. It supports the city's only licensed, not-for-profit, homeless-friendly redemption center. This not only provides opportunities for canners and the homeless but also encourages their self-dependence and responsibility.
At its very core, Sure We Can is not just for canners. It is the canner community.
The problems faced by canners
Consider the enormous and unnecessary difficulties and indignities faced by canners since the 1983 Bottle Bill was passed:
Sure We Can's principal goal is to sponsor and coordinate the development of mutually beneficial systems with the City of New York and local environmental organizations for the collection and redemption of containers, with the ultimate goal of making recycling a way of life while removing the unnecessary hardships faced by those wishing to participate.
Sure We Can's mission is the sponsorship and establishment of user-friendly bulk redemption centers in various parts of New York City. Prototype redemption facilities have already been established and will be expanded to other neighborhoods and allow container redemption to evolve into a honorable line of work citywide. The objectives are to provide the following services to those people making the effort to collect discarded recyclables and allow them to rely on this as a stable means of income:
In fact, we are already on our way to accomplishing most of these goals, through the operation of our current redemption center, located in Brooklyn.
Population served directly by Sure We Can
The canners of New York City:
Benefits for New York City’s broader population
In addition to the obvious benefits for the can and bottle collectors themselves, the work of Sure We Can serves a number of other stakeholders and goals within the City.
First, it serves obvious environmental goals. By encouraging the collection and ultimate recycling of discarded aluminum, plastic and glass recyclables, Sure We Can helps cut down on the need for landfill, while removing trash from the streets of New York City.
Second, Sure We Can improves the quality of life within the City’s neighborhoods by helping those who collect cans and bottles to better integrate into their communities.
At present, the public usually sees can and bottle collectors as a neighborhood eye soar and nuisance. Certainly, they are not recognized for the services they perform for themselves or our urban environment. As a result, these people are routinely treated in a demeaning way by others, to say the least.
As a remedy, Sure We Can aims to train participating can and bottle collectors to present themselves more professionally, to sort through New York’s trash without leaving a mess behind, and, generally speaking, to collect and transport recyclables in a way that does not alienate others.