“Is there a deposit on the bottles here?” I asked a friend after finishing off a beer together in the front entrance way of our hotel.
“If there is a deposit I will come to your room to get it,” he spoke with a laugh.
Then I had to wonder: there are a lot of bars in Sosua, many people are drinking beer everywhere, what happens to all of the bottles?
Larger sized glass beer bottles are worth money in many countries in Latin America. The beer factories, or bottling plants, usually collect and recollect their bottles to be refilled in an endless cycle of reuse. I do not know how many extremely old looking, antique, Coca Cola bottles I have drank out of while traveling through this region of the world.
Often times in Latin America the bottle is actually worth more than the drinkable substance inside of it. I don’t know how many times I have had to reassure nervous shop owners that I would return their bottles after emptying the contents. I also remember a few occasions where I have even been refused the sale of bottled beer or Coca Cola because the shop keeper was afraid I would run off with the bottle, thus making him loose out on his collection pay.
As I know that these bottles are worth money, I wondered what people did with them in the Dominican Republic. The people drinking out of them do not seem to heed their value, and I have not yet observed a shop keeper chasing after one, or many collection trucks picking up empty bottles from stores.
Then I met this man on the outskirts of the city
I was walking around the agricultural/ residential areas outside of Sosua, when I turned down a little dirt road and saw a fenced in lot with a little concrete structure on the inside. The interesting thing was that there were thousands of beer bottles stacked up in semi-organized piles over the entire inside surface.
There was a man inside the fence organizing the bottles. He had a little cart behind him that I am sure I saw before being pushed around the bar district.
He was a bottle collector. My questions as to what happens to all of the beer bottles in Sosua post consumption had been answered.
I walked up to the fence and called out to the man in Spanish.
“You have a lot of bottles!”
He laughed a little, smiled at me, and said hello to the baby I was carrying in my arms. He seemed open to chatting.
So I asked him how he obtained all of his bottles, and if he collected them for the deposit. He answered that he buys two bottles for one peso and then sells them to a beer or bottling plant for one pesos each.
“So you double your investment!” I exclaimed.
He nodded his head proudly.
I then asked him how much money one of the piles of bottles was worth, and he answered without hesitation, “dieciocho.”
I took this to mean 18 hundred pesos. 50 US dollars. He had about 10 times this number of bottles stacked up around his workshop.
In a country where the average wage of a restaurant worker is 3000 to 6000 pesos a month, this guy was doing alright.
He is not a bum, a scavenger, or a derelict in the least. No, he is a bottle investor. He pays for his product, prepares it, organizes it, and then sells it for double his investment.
Not a bad way to make a living.
This is the cart that the bottle investor pushes around Sosua.
Dominican Republic Travelogue Entries