A group of Memorial University business students have put an entrepreneurial spin on recycling, driving up collections and income for those who push carts around St. John's looking for used bottles and cans.

Project Bottlepreneur is still in its early stages but has already had an impact, with the group's work doubling the income of St. John's resident Gervais McCarthy.

"I was too embarrassed to go around house to house asking people … I felt kind of ashamed of it," McCarthy told CBC News.


Jon King says the program is 'really breaking down a social barrier that was within our city before.' CBC

"I don't want anybody to get the wrong idea, like I'm some kind of criminal or something."

Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), a student group at Memorial University, developed a new approach for McCarthy, who works in the city's east end.

SIFE went door to door with brochures asking people to put out their unwanted recyclables. St. John's has a curbside recycling program, but it does not collect bottles and does not reimburse participants for deposits on pop cans.

Project organizer Jon King, who developed a new route for McCarthy to follow, said the response was amazing.

"It's really becoming a community effort. People are really getting involved, and it's really breaking down a social barrier that was within our city before," King said.

McCarthy started collecting bottles and cans while he was living on the streets of Calgary before he moved home three years ago. He said the new system in St. John's is a huge improvement, including in his standard of living.

It also spares him from the indignity of digging through garbage containers for recyclables that others have tossed away as trash. Individuals with push carts can often be seen in St. John's collecting materials from public containers and bringing them to depots.

"It makes me feel good, because after my day is done I can go buy groceries, stuff like that," he said.

"I feel I've been around these people, been out in society. It's like I'm with them, doing the things that they do."

With files from Robyn Miller