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Sarah Iverson

Research Findings

Mismatched meaning making at a bottle and can redemption center

August 28, 2020

Every day — even in the midst of a global pandemic — men and women known as “canners” spend hours trawling city streets for empty bottles and cans. Many bring their containers to redemption centers, where they sell their wares for five cents apiece. In turn, redemption centers sell recyclables at a profit to beverage distribution companies, which must purchase them under local laws like New York’s Bottle Bill.

What motivates these workers? In a recently published study, I find that canners are motivated primarily by the money they make from bottle and can redemption, and by work conditions like job autonomy and the ability to work without papers.

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