A Week That Changed Our World: Cycling and recycling

Ashley Thompson
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Garnet Ryan rifles through a trash bin at a gas station in search of recyclables.

Windsor, NS, 10 a.m., Aug.17, 2014

Elbow deep in another man’s trash, Garnet Ryan shakes his head.

“This one’s dry,” the 72-year-old says.

Dry means Ultramar's trash bin has no refundable recyclables to add to the mounting collection in the custom-built wagon he tows behind his bike. Dry means it's time to move along to nearby restaurants.

Coasting alongside traffic on Windsor’s busy Wentworth Road, Ryan's in his glory. His grin as steady as his pace, he is undeterred by unhappy motorists.

Cars honk. Ryan hums.

“The best place to rest your backside is on a bicycle seat,” he says.

He keeps pushing, pedalling down the route he travels three times a day in search of cans and bottles to cash in for five cents each. On a good week, he'll find $50 worth. The cash is stashed for medications, or little extras around the apartment he shares with the wife - and small donations to needy children at Christmas.

But it’s not about the money. Ryan has a pension for that.

“I wouldn't give it up for nothing,” he vows. “If I can't ride my bike you might as well just dig a hole in the ground, drop me in it and cover me over.”

Ryan almost wound up six feet under a year and a half ago. He has the triple bypass that gave him a second chance after his first heart attack to thank for every blissful bike ride he enjoys.

“I'm not going to pull no punches with nobody; I can't sit still.”

Three years ago, Ryan tipped the scales at 283 pounds. Today, he weighs in at 164.

“This is the old girl that did it,” he jests, patting the seat of his bicycle.

Click on the day to see more from A Week That Changed Our World collection:








Organizations: Ryan's

Geographic location: Windsor, Wentworth Road

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Recent comments

  • reader
    September 03, 2014 - 14:53

    So anyone can go through your trash that can be identified as yours, read any paper mail you put out for recycling, see what books and magazines you read, what liquor you drink, etc? Would gladly put out a bag with the man's name on it if I lived on his route, but to allow this type of general rooting through your garbage seems a bit much.