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Bottle Collector of Sosua Dominican Republic

“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 [...]

“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

Bottle investor of Sosua

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.

Bottle collecting cart

This is the cart that the bottle investor pushes around Sosua.

Dominican Republic Travelogue Entries

Filed under: Caribbean, Culture and Society, Dominican Republic

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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2 comments… add one

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  • Mike Crosby February 16, 2010, 2:16 am

    Wade, I just love your blog. Thanks so much.

    Little stories like this make for fascinating reading. Great picture too. I like the smile on his face. Seems like he’s very happy with his enterprise.

    Are you still going to try fishing with that other gentleman?

    Thirty years ago, I was hitchhiking through CA. This guy picked me up (Morro Bay) who was the captain of a fishing boat. I told him I was interested in fishing and he said I could spend the night on his boat and he and his partner would be back in the morning to go fishing. When I got up that morning, I didn’t think it was a good idea to go with these guys, so I grabbed my backpack and left. Later, I looked back and thought: if I went with these guys, they could have robbed me and thrown me overboard and no one would have known what happened. I always had around $500 on my person when I hitchhiked. I know traveling one must take risks, but I did not feel right about the situation, so I bailed.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com February 16, 2010, 9:00 am

      Hello Mike,

      Trusting your intuition when traveling is probably the best thing that you could ever do.

      I go down and talk with the fishermen on my rounds about town. I may go out with them, though they would probably want me to pay for it — paid fishing trips are normal here — though if they let me go fishing just to be friendly, I will surely go. So it depends. I will continue feeling the situation out, and do what my feet tell me to do.

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