‘Clamming’?

Some would call what I do a form of ‘land clamming’, and me a ‘land clammer’, but it’s not and I’m not.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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A land clammer, in the colloquial, is a derogatory term for someone who travels around picking the valuable empties from the recycling cans and from the roadside.  I hate the term, because it insults people who are engaged in productive work.  I think it sneers, so I think that I’ll call them deposit harvesters instead at least until something more appropriate occurs to me.

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What I do, first and foremost, is, of course, pick up and properly dispose of, litter. And in the course of cleaning up my neighborhood I come across empties: beer cans mostly, usually on the weekends, as I have discussed. Much of the time, when I recover the odd empty, it just goes into the nearest trash can.  It’s just not worth the effort (picking up, carrying home, sorting from the rest of the trash, putting in the recycling can, taking to the redemption center, cashing in the chit) for ten cents a can or bottle: but weekends can be lucrative.  Weekends are different.

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Saturday Morning

On the weekends, people throw lots of empty beer cans out the car window. Sometimes people sit in their cars on a back street and knock back a whole case of beer at one time.  Out the window it goes, one at a time or all at once, carton and all.  These people are known as drunk drivers, usually, and as such they are criminals much to be despised. They can’t compare in virtue to the humble and productive deposit harvesters.

On the weekend, I make sure to bring the pick-stick along, and some repurposed bags, and I collect the cans. What must the neighbors think?: land clammer (deposit harvester!).  I’ve never cared.  If it were true, I’d be proud of it.

We used to have visits from one particular deposit harvester, locally.  He pushed a shopping cart down the street in the middle of the night, tossing through everyone’s recycling can every other week looking for deposits to cash in.  It got annoying because of the racket. The noise from the shopping cart wheels was like the introductory symbol solo from a bad rock song.  With a refrain like a washing machine full of clinking and  clanking tin cans, he’d fish through the recycling cans, one by one, working his way down the block.  It used to wake up dogs throughout the neighborhood and annoy the shit out of everyone.  This at four am.  Every two weeks.

It got so annoying during the warmer months that action was required.  What I did was, drum roll, wait for it – I started cashing in my own empties.  I know, it’s not something that many people relish doing.  I sure didn’t, I had other things to do.  But I started taking the empties to the supermarket and feeding the machines and recovering the paltry sums, mostly to discourage our nocturnal visitor.  That damn shopping cart was driving me insane.

I think the neighbors did the same thing, or else they just started throwing their empties into the regular trash to throw him off the scent, because after a while – the brass band went away.  He disappeared.  I suppose that once we took away the cost-benefit, he started skipping our street.  Or he died or moved away or found a better paying line of work: it’s hard to be certain.  I felt a little guilty about that, but we all need our sleep.

I’m not a land clammer/deposit harvester, I’m more like a deposit grazer.  I pick up what comes my way in the treadmill course of my daily block-circling dog walk.   On the weekends, the proceeds come home and get added to the recycling and yes, I recover the cash for this.  In a good week, we’re talking less than a buck.  Which I donate. I don’t do this for the money: it’s civics.

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Beer Cans, Baggies and Other Hot Potatoes

Ok.  You can almost understand this one.  But not.  The empties really ought to go right out the window as soon as they’re empty.  After all, they’re evidence.  Kind of like dumping the dead body.  We get it, yes, but… .

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98 bottles of beer now. Really?

I suppose this is why the baggies go out there too… .

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Drugs. After.

Of course there’s another option – don’t drink and drive; don’t take drugs and drive.  But if people were inclined to obey all of the laws there would be no need for the police.  In fact one of the stand-out statistics for the County of Suffolk is our leading position in the number of people arrested for DWI under Leandra’s Law (354 since inception, followed by 185 for, you guessed it: Nassau).  That’s the crime that you commit where you’re loaded and driving around with the kids in the car.  Usually, it’s after an accident but there’s not always a crash before moms, dads or caregivers wind up in handcuffs for this one.

Suffolk, according to a representative from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, had a ‘team in place’ already when the law went into effect and so was ready to enforce this law immediately.  Nice to hear MADD giving props to a well planned police initiative, the cops need their support.

There’s another side to that coin:  It’s fair to say that Suffolk County has a DWI problem.   Whether it’s the sheer number of roadways in the County, population density, some kind of suburban thing, the lack of mass transit (don’t buy that one), or a cultural tilt(s) towards the bottle as fuel for fun and entertainment, it’s a problem.  A summer spent picking up empties every Sunday morning doesn’t make me optimistic about the trend line on this crime.

Beer cans and bottles, wine bottles, vodka bottles, mixed drinks, ‘shot bags’ (I’d share a link to a purveyer of these but I don’t want to promote them, think a small baggie full of booze) and lots of variations on the theme can be found lining the roads ANYWHERE you look in Suffolk.  Many of these containers are conveniently ‘travel sized’,

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Travel size vodka bottle. Perfect for the car.
and contained in small non-transparent plastic bags (usually black) from the convenience store.  If the cops can’t see it, maybe they won’t think it’s beer!  Wrong. Anyhow, we have a retail sector that caters to the ‘mobile’ alcoholic.  

A lot of people who never thought they’d be arrested are going to be arrested before this worm turns, count on it.  Cheers?  I don’t think so.