Every year Californians buy about 22 billion beverages in aluminum, glass and plastic containers. Every one of those containers can be redeemed for a few cents each. That means trash can be turned into cash, providing a lifeline for a subculture of marginalized recyclers — the unemployed and underemployed, the elderly, the mentally and physically disabled, former criminals, drug addicts and prostitutes — who, through recycling, earn money and reclaim the pride that comes with having a job.
A new documentary, "Dogtown Redemption," tells the stories of some of the people who make their living off our nation’s vast river of trash. The film focuses on three central characters living in Oakland, following them over seven years, to give insight into the lives of America’s unseen.
One of those people is Landon Goodwin, a former minister who has struggled with his own fall from grace. He found himself living on the streets of West Oakland and relying on income made from recycling.
Among the recyclers, Goodwin is known as “the preacher.” He’s their minister. A gentle, stylish man, he has a warm, generous and gracious smile that conceals his hard times. As he puts it, living on the streets is like being “in my valley of weeping.”
The film, which was produced by ITVS and will air on PBS next week, chronicles Goodwin’s long climb out of that valley, which began after two vicious back-to-back attacks left him feeling unsafe on the streets and in the shack that he used to call home.