KENNEWICK -- Where some see garbage, a Kennewick woman sees a bit of extra cash, an opportunity to make the world a little better and a chance to regain her strength after battling cancer.
The piles of refuse left behind in Columbia Park after last weekend's Water Follies was a windfall for Susan Greenough, 47, of Kennewick. By sunrise, she was in the park picking up aluminum cans.
A dedicated recycler, she seldom passes a garbage can without checking for aluminum cans.
"Just shake it a bit. If it rattles, there's cans inside," Greenough said.
She learned her recycling habit while she was growing up in Michigan.
"Everyone recycles there -- and not just aluminum," she said.
Her family moved to the Tri-Cities when she was 14, where she kept up her environmentally friendly habits. She also followed in her grandparents' footsteps, becoming a dealer in antiques and collectibles.
She and a friend, Gwen Burnley of Richland, ran Den of Antiquities, a Kennewick antique store, for three years. Now she rents a space in the Bee's Knees Antique Mall in Richland, where many of the items she sells come from yard sales.
"Just like I can't pass a garbage can without checking for cans, I can spot a yard sale blocks away," she said.
But it wasn't until after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in December that Greenough began going out every day to pick up cans. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments have left Greenough unable to work.
"I don't have enough strength yet. My doctor says it will be another six months or so before I can look for a job," she said.
In the meantime, Greenough gets out and walks to help build her stamina.
"Mindless walking just doesn't do it for me, so I always take a bag or two along and pick up cans," she said. "I have to stay busy."
She has established a regular route through most Tri-City parks, where she checks garbage cans for recyclables. An alley in downtown Kennewick near several bars and cafes also is one of her weekly stops.
On her self-appointed patrols through the city parks, Greenough has found jeans, shoes, purses, CDs and even a set of strobe lights in a Dumpster behind a bar.
"They worked perfectly. I sold them through the Herald's classifieds," she said.
Greenough once found a box of unopened blue eye shadow and a fifth of vodka, still sealed.
Her post-hydro finds this week included six unopened beer bottles, sleeves of paper cups and a package of napkins.
"Rather than take them home, they just tossed them into the garbage. I saw whole bags of hot dog buns, hundreds of them, just tossed in the cans. Why didn't someone take them to the food bank?" she asked. "I couldn't believe the waste. And the water bottles, thousands of them, half full. If they didn't want to drink it, why not use the water to cool themselves off?" Greenough asked.
Greenough said she normally makes $20 to $30 a week recycling. It varies depending on the price of metal.
"It pays to call ahead (to the recycler). It can be as little as 12 cents a pound in the winter or as high as 50 or 60 cents in the summer and varies from business to business," she said.
As she fishes cans and other recyclables from the trash, Greenough gets some funny looks. But she said it's worth it to keep useful things from the trash.
"Americans waste so much. If everyone would pick up just one thing a day, we could clean up the world."