Bottling a fortune

The Groenink family's garage resembles a recycling center at a local supermarket rather than a place to store the family car.
Alex Doty
Jan 17, 2014

Boxes, buckets, tubs and crates fill the space, all with returnable glass and aluminum bottles that 15-year-old Nick Groenink collects, sorts and returns for 10 cents each.

“(I’ve collected) probably since I was 5,” the Coopersville teen said. “I’d get them alongside the road and in the trash.“

Nick said he looks for “everything that is 10 cents.” He also collects cans at school and a campground, and he’s gone to the Berlin Raceway, Berlin Fair and other large events where there’s plenty of pop.

“Once in a while, I’ll even ride my bike,” he said. “Once, I had a person stop and give me $25 worth of cans.”

Jay Groenink, Nick’s father, said his son would sometimes travel as much as five miles on his bike and return home with dozens of cans and bottles in tow.

Nick is meticulous in how he sorts. Each box has a different store label and beverage brand, as sometimes certain cans can only be returned to certain stores. This, he said, is his big advice for people who might want to get into the returnable game.

“I have it set up so that I know where to take them,” Nick said. “If you go to different stores and see what they sell, you’ll know what to return.”

The boy has collected more than $9,000 worth of bottles and cans, and the totals continue to grow.

“One Sunday, after church, by the time we got home we had about 20 cans,” Jay said “There were some nights where he’d walk out of Meijer with $100 in his pocket.”

Jay attributes his son’s ability to a strong worth ethic.

“He just loves to work," said the boy's father, who operates Groenink’s Elevator & Hardware in Nunica.

To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.


Tri-cities realist

Great story about teaching the next generation a strong work ethic and what it means to EARN money. Nice job Jay.


Congratulations, Jay! Good Luck with that bright future you are creating for yourself with your resourcefulness. You can be proud that, not only are you earning a tidy sum of money, you are helping to clean up the environment. Go Jay!


That is awesome. My father in law did the same thing over the years and he was known as the "Can Man". He would get up at 3.30am and have his designated route in GH during the tourist season. He collected enough cans that he paid CASH for a new car.


This is what we need. More people understanding that money is earned with hard work and a plan. Not by simply getting a money transfer from the government.

Congratulations to this young man and his family. You can be sure that I will do more to support this family's business over the coming year. They are teaching their children real lessons instead of simply giving them everything.


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