USC students react to Wednesday’s shooting

Listen to audio interviews with USC students Ran Xu and Anun Odjargl, and neighborhood resident Jose Lopez.

Interviews by Annenberg Radio News reporters Natasha Zouves and Sean Patrick Lewis.

Vital recycling centers in trouble

The cheerful facade of the G & P Recycling center has graced West Jefferson Boulevard for six years. They’ve seen a recent downturn in customers. Workers say before they’d serve 250 customers a day; these days they see only about 130.

G & P Recycling center, located on West Jefferson Boulevard, is hard to miss. It’s certainly a sight: corrugated metal walls are painted shades of neon yellow and turquoise. And then there’s the sound: an unmistakable noise of bees buzzing happily around empty soda cans and the metallic crunch of aluminum cans and the shattering of glass bottles.

It’s also hard to miss Edwood Deaver. He’s a familiar sight here. 51-year-old Deaver rolls two big grey buckets of cans into the center four times a day, seven days a week.

“This is how I live,” said Deaver, “so it’s a job for me.”

Growing up on a farm in North Carolina, Deaver never imagined he would be here.

“Never in my life would I ever have thought I’d be homeless or had to do recycling. But you never know. I would have never guessed it, but here I am,” said Deaver.

Deaver says, tired of small-town life, he joined the military straight out of high school.

“I was 18,” recalled Deaver. “I didn’t see a future and I wanted to go to college.”

He served for 17 years, until his career was ended abruptly. In 2002, he was shot in the head and the chest in Iraq. The bullet that grazed his brain was an injury he thought would take his life. Instead, it took his military career and slurred his southern lilt.

“Because I’m the sole survivor of my family and I didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Deaver.

He said he applied to almost 70 jobs but, with the economic crash, he was on the street within a year. Deaver described his “lowest low”:

“One morning, I’m drinking a cup of coffee, in a styrofoam cup,” said Deaver. “The police pulls up and says, ‘What are you drinking?’ He opens up the lid and just throws the cup.”

Edwood Deaver has made a full-time job out of recycling. He was in the military for 17 years before a brain injury changed his life. He says recycling has enabled him to rent an apartment.

That was his breakfast that morning. It’s this event that prompted Deaver to start recycling, and he says he has never looked back. He wakes up at 5:30 in the morning and visits up to forty locations a day to collect recyclables. He only takes what he can drag by hand. By nightfall he says he’s exhausted, but he usually has forty dollars in his pocket.

Although G & P is a lifeline for many, workers at the recycling center say with the downturn in the economy, business has also decreased.

“Starting last year, it just started dropping, dropping. This year has been pretty bad,” said Cesar Lopez, a cashier at G & P.

Workers say the number of recycling centers in the area has doubled in recent years–meaning more competition for customers. Lopez said G & P may have to lay off 2 of its 6 workers, which worries him. He has a three-year-old daughter.

“We kind of depend on the people,” said Lopez. “If they don’t come in, we don’t get paid our hours. Before, a good day we’d see 250 people, these days you’re only seeing 130 customers a day.”

Deaver has also noticed an increase in competition. He says he used to make three times more than he currently does every day. He’s also noticed that two other recycling centers have opened up near where he lives. But convenient or not, he’s sticking with G & P.

“I like the people,” said Deaver. “They’ve always been friendly, good, trying to help you. They tend to watch out for you here. It helps me move forward.”

Move forward, into an apartment. Deaver started renting his own place six years ago with the money he made from G & P.

“It was a big change,” said Deaver. “I was so thrilled I didn’t even know what to do.”

He says that first night: “I went and bought a big old pizza. Sat down and watched TV.”

He said sometimes people look down at him as he rummages for recyclables, but it’s a real job that’s brought him real success.

“Sometimes I’ll sit on a bench across the street from my apartment and just look at it.” said Deaver. “I did that. It’s a good feeling.”