Members of Sure We Can, the city’s only nonprofit redemption center, are requesting $2.3 million from the capital budget, saying that if they don’t secure the funding, they will have to close the Bushwick location they’ve occupied for ten years — where hundreds of canners gather each morning to sort and redeem their bottles and cans. “Now more than ever, we need to keep our doors open,” said Ana de Luco, who co-founded Sure We Can in 2007.

According to de Luco, most supermarkets have shut down their can and bottle redemption machines during the novel coronavirus pandemic, leaving the city’s estimated 10,000 canners in the lurch. “We are praying that the city will allow us to make this space a permanent resource,” she said.

Citing a recent report by city Comptroller Scott Stringer, de Luco noted that unemployment among foreign-born workers increased in May to 23.3 percent, including undocumented immigrant workers who have been excluded from receiving unemployment benefits under COVID-19 relief programs. “Sure We Can expects many more people will have to rely on nickel deposits as their main source of income,” she said.

“We never get any respect from the city,” said Chicago Crosby, who has collected cans in Bedford Stuyvesant for close to eight years. “Now is the chance to change that.” Crosby recently testified in front of the City Council in support of the Community Organics and Recycling Empowerment (CORE) Act, legislation currently pending which would establish recycling hubs in neighborhoods across the city.

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Author: Emily Davenport, Brooklyn Paper
Image: Getty, Davenport Paper