Firsthand: Getting Canned

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They call me the king of cans, but I don’t like to label myself. I’ve been canning for eight years. Full-time. It started ’cause I got laid off from my job. I needed an easy way of making money without selling drugs.

I got a route from Tuesday to Friday, and Monday mornings. From 86th to 102nd. My buildings, the guys don’t put out [the recyclables] until I come. If I’m gonna miss, I let them know ahead of time. The trick to this is having a schedule, and knowing when they’re going to put out. In the summertime the competition is intense. But I have my buildings locked down.

Today I’ll probably make $75. But sometimes I make $800 to $850 in a week. It’s better than the average job. Right now I’m trying to save money for a van so I don’t have to continue walking all these blocks. Two weeks ago I tried a supermarket job for a day. For 13 hours, the guy wanted to pay me $60. I said, “You’re out of your damn mind.” In 13 hours I can make 240 bucks.

My wife don’t like [collecting cans] at all. She’s embarrassed.

I was 13 when I started doing drugs. When I was 16 I went to a home ’cause of my attitude in school. I became worse toward my family. Then I went to jail for selling heroin, cocaine and marijuana. I did 5 years. That’s where I got my education. During my free time in jail, I did school. I have my associate’s degree in business management from Rutgers. I also got my high school diploma when I was in there. I have a whole different outlook on life now. I appreciate my freedom.

I’ve got liquid handcuffs right now. I mean the methadone program. I go to Mount Sinai hospital, 3:30, every day. It?’ been three years now. I went to an addict and alcoholics program for two months and I came down from a high dose to a low dose. I’m ready to go again.