first-curran - JMSC Courses

Curran—Garbage Market
“Unfortunately,” said Stephen Schwake, a
skateboarding artist with a flat-top and a grouchy
wit, “These are going to the landfill.” My plastic
hot sauce jug, milk bottle lid, cassette cover and the
spine of my window-wiper will soon steepen the
range of hills on 290 East.
Period, not comma, after wit. What’s happening
here? Is this him or you talking in last sentence? If
you mean landfill, say landfill. Not all your readers
will know what you’re talking about.
Ecology-Action diverts everything it can from the
What is Ecology Action? Triangle of arrows? I
dump. But according to Schwake, who works there have no idea what you’re getting at here.
four days a week, a triangle of arrows on the side of
a piece of junk still does not mean he can save it.
“The market is what controls what happens. If you
can’t sell the materials, you do your best but you
can’t recycle,” said Professor Joseph Molina who
teaches environmental engineering at the
University of Texas.
Comma after best, also after Molina. This is a real
herky-jerky start. Is point of story that some stuff
can’t be recycled?
Recycling in Austin began when environmentalists
formed this non-profit organization in 1970. EcoAction staff invited people to bring old paper, glass
and metal to the center where they would sort
through it and sell or use what they could. In 1982,
the city took the center up on their offer and
dropped off the spoils from Austin’s first curbside
recycling route.
Before jumping into history, we need to know what
the point of the story is. Nut section badly needed
here. Is Eco-Action same as Ecology Action? Is the
hyphen really there? Its offer, not their offer.
As more houses went green, the city redirected its
trucks to Browning-Ferris Industry’s facility and to
its own Materials Recovery Facility or “Murf” in
1998. Bob Fernandez, Division Manager of the
city’s Solid Waste Services said Murf processes
34,000 tons of junk a year, yielding enough sales to
cover expenses of $1.1 million.
Full name for Browning, please. I see no reason for
caps on materials recover facility. Murf should be
offset by commas. Never cap a title after a name,
only before. Comma after services.
In 1995 Eco-Action replaced a tire store on 9th
Street and I-35 frontage road with a center for
people without curbside service. The center
receives 2,000 tons of materials a year. Last year
sales only met a third of expenses. Glass and
paper—the two most common donations—had a
bad year on the commodities market. City grants
and private donations picked up the slack.
It’s Ninth Street. Huh? So EA isn’t meeting
expenses but Browning and City are? Is that right?
On Thursday the Eco-Action office looked like a
band of gardeners had occupied a gas station.
Why the time peg? Makes your story seem old.
Folders, stuffed wire trays, biodegradable coffee
cups, computers and potted plants—upright plants,
creeping plants, prickly plants and floppy plants—
hid the countertops. “It’s been a year since the
director left, and we have a three-headed
management structure,” said Emily Schleier, the
communications director. Another employee, John
Clement looked up from an e-mail about the
potential of used cooking oil to cheer the departure
of the boss system. A stack of egg-boxes stood
about four short of the ceiling—Schwake and
Clement were saving them for a chicken-farming
Quotes go in separate grafs. Comma after Clement.
Nice narrative here, but it probably would have
been better as an intro. Still not entirely clear on
where story is going.
Outside, customers pulled up the gas-station-slopes Quotes in separate grafs.
from both entrances. “We get a lot of Volvos in the
parking lot,” Schwake said.
Elderly Sid Gervais of Old Timer Clock Store
helped a couple of volunteers drag his cardboard
from his truck into the baler. “We get grandfather
clocks from three manufacturers and we don’t have
room for the boxes,” said Gervais.
Ditto. You need better i.d.’s of people: Name, age,
occupation and address, though we wouldn’t print
the address.
Jose Luis Garcia was dumping giant tomato tins
from Las Manitas Restaurant into the plastic
garbage cans marked “steel.”
Restraurant not capped.
The contents of my bin were domestic: coke cans,
ranch bean tins, Campbells clam chowder tins, a
Prego jar, pizza boxes, a couple of Statesmans and
an Austin Chronicle, a milk bottle and other plastic
You bin? Not at all clear what’s going on here.
First person stuff is hard to blend with non-first
Schwake crushed the coke cans and deposited them
into a fresh painted, secure dumpster. Aluminum is
handled like treasure.
Freshly, not fresh. They don’t have any insecure
“I came in really early one morning,” said Janie
Lindsley, Eco-Action’s Financial Director, “There
was a homeless guy dragging a barrel of aluminum
cans down the street. ‘We need those cans to
generate revenue,’ I said. ‘Well I need them, too,’
he said.”
Financial director shouldn’t be capped. Put a period
after director, not a comma. Nice quote and scene,
but what point is it intended to make?
Another competitor, Martin Cantu, who calls
himself Sapo (toad), gathered his cans legitimately
on his journey Thursday from Manor Road to
Austin Metal and Iron across the highway from
Eco-Action on East 4th Street. He wheeled his
Better i.d. needed. This graf is really hard to read.
It’s Fourth Street. What’s Austin Metal & Iron? Is
that full name of business? Need a period after
baby seat, which shouldn’t have a hyphen.
yellow shopping trolley onto the scrap-dealer’s
premises. He was eating a chicken dinner out of
the baby-seat About five black bags full of beer and
soda cans swung from the sides of the trolley.
“I’m the Number One can man in Austin,” Cantu
said. “I’ve been coming here for fifteen to twenty
years. I brought 300 lbs here more than twice.”
Make it 15 to 20. Make it pounds, not lbs.
A laborer weighed Cantu’s cans on an electric
scale. On Thursday, Cantu bagged 44lbs of
aluminum—some days he only gets an eighth as
much. Austin Metal and Iron paid him 32c per lb.
44 pounds. 32 cents.
The wholesale price for aluminum on Thursday
was 66c per lb—only copper sold for more on the
scrap market.
66 cents per pound. Wholesale price where? On the
commodities exchange?
With his dirty white beard, his baggy skin and his
cut cheek, Cantu looked tired. “I’ll be working in
the rain, snow and thunder, just to survive my
bones,” he said.
This is good narrative, but it’s unfocused. What’s
the point?
Austin Metal and Iron also buys the aluminum from
Eco-Action and the Murf. “We run your cans over Quote in separate graf. Period after manager.
a conveyor system,” said Jim Shapiro, manager,
“A magnet on a wheel takes out all ferrous
material. Then we bale the aluminum so it’s
accessible to be milled down and turned into new
Anheuser Busch buy the biggest share of the Austin Proper name for Anheuser. Buys, not buy.
scrap-dealer’s aluminum bales.
A foundry would pay less than $27 per ton for
scrap steel. So it’s not the chowder dregs or stray
beans that made Schwake less disposed to my other
“It’s nice if you do wash them out, though,”
Schwake said. “It cuts down on the smell.” For a
garbage business, Eco-Action is almost odorless.
My Prego jar might stink up the dumpster reserved
for clear glass. But nobody would have to eat from
it again. Schwake showed me the old glass
crushing machine which the neighbors had shut
down for noise.
A conveyor belt would dump the bottles and
Says who? Your other cans? I’m lost.
containers between two whizzing propellers. A
chute would then collect the particles.
These days, processors like Dlubak in Waxahachie
crush the center’s green, brown and clear glass
separately for building materials. These particles
add glint to gravel, asphalt and shingles. But none
of the bottling companies purchase the mix.
What’s proper name of Dlubak?
“Here in America, we have a fetish for goodlooking glass,” Professor Molina said. “Europeans
use very dark bottles and call them clear. When we
say clear, we want no color at all.”
Just Molina.
The non-profit sold 493 tons of glass to processors
last year to meet one percent of revenue.
Aluminum sells for eighty times as much.
Nonprofit. Not clear what nonprofit you’re talking
about. Eco Action? It’s 80, not eighty. And what’s
your attribution for price?
“Glass has seen a serious drop,” said Fernandez of
the Murf. “We can’t trade green glass. We used to
be able to sell it if we paid for hauling. Now
nobody will take it.”
So people used to buy it but don’t now?
Eco-Action found a secret buyer for their green
glass. Fernandez has hundreds of thousands of
green bottles sitting on his premises.
You can’t walk away from this. Need a little more
on secret buyer or kill graf.
Newspaper, phone books and other mixed paper
were the highest volume donation to the center last
year. My Sunday Statesman alone could keep a
forklift busy. “In the newspaper boom in the early
90s, people would steal it from here. You could get
$120 per ton,” said Clement.
By January, 2003, paper was hardly worth the ink
No comma in January 2003. What is reference for
that was printed on it. The wholesale price was $38 price?
per ton.
A Texan company called Tascon buys and mulches
Eco-Action’s paper to make home insulation
materials for Home Depot.
Texas company. What’s full, formal title? Same for
Home Depot.
Schwake refused all of my plastic. He drew a
cartoon for the non-profit’s newsletter in October,
2002 of a man in a polo neck holding up a yogurt
pot. “But I bought it in at the health food store,”
said the man. “It has to be recyclable.”
What’s a polo neck?
In Texas manufacturers only buy plastic bottles
with the number one or number two printed on the
What’s this about? I’m getting lost.
bottom of them
“The ‘one’ and ‘two’ bottles are made of only one
polymer each, so they can be heated and cast again
easily,” said Molina.
Hot sauce bottles, cassette covers, and plastic
packaging (including all breeds of plastic foam) are
composites—layers of different plastics that could
melt at different temperatures. Nobody in Texas
wants to break these chemicals down and put them
back together.
Who’s Molina? I’m getting lost as the info comes
at me…
Says who?
From Coors Light boxes to mirrors, from vellum to Eco Action HAS
carbon paper—Eco-Action have to dump a range of
refuse they cannot pass on. But the vast majority of
rejects are plastic.
“92 percent of the material that’s brought to the
NEVER start a sentence with a number. Use words.
Murf is re-used,” Fernandez said.
Thousands of tons of materials intended for
regeneration by Eco-Action and the Murf will join
my plastics in the landfill this year. .
In the office, Schwake eyed the egg-boxes.
“That lady hasn’t been in a while,” he said.
If nobody wants the commodity, someone has to
bury it with all the rest.
Good ending, I think, but the quote belongs in a
separate graf.
Great reporting and some good quotes and narrative. But if the story has a focus, I don’t get it. Force
yourself to write a nut graf that specifies the point of the story. What are you trying to say? Re style,
there’s an error in almost every graf. You ought to at least try consulting the AP Stylebook. Would have
to be rewritten to be published.
Grade: B minus