Drew Choma is helping save the planet one bottle or can at a time. Some days, he's helping by the hundreds, picking up returnables that would otherwise stack up or find their way to landfills.
As the leader of Team Drew Bottle Service, the 24-year-old East Lansing resident collects hundreds of returnable cans and bottles from area businesses and homes each week and turns them in for deposit. His fee is half what he collects through the exchange of bottles and cans at local return centers.
"It's a fantastic service," says Justin Savage, owner of The Savage Agency Allstate Insurance in Haslett. "Drew saves us a bunch of time by picking up the dozens of bottles and cans that can pile up in our office. His service takes something off our plate and lets us focus on our business."
Savage is among a half dozen businesses and nonprofits in Greater Lansing that are ensured many happy returns through Team Drew. Most split the return on deposits 50-50. Some allow Drew and his team to keep 100 percent. In other cases, Team Drew donates the entire proceeds from a resulting bottle slip to the non-profit that amassed the paid-deposit returnables.
"He's an incredibly hard worker, takes pride in a job well-done, and enjoys what he does," says Janelle Choma, Drew's mother and business supporter. "He enjoys seeing and interacting with people, and he's happy and knows what he wants."
And, says Janelle, it's Drew's way to lead a self-determined life filled with purpose, dignity and happiness, as he faces the daily challenges of autism.
"We service a lot of businesses who have large loads," says Janelle. "We go to Lansing, Holt, East Lansing and Okemos. We mostly do businesses, but residences are an option, too. Sometimes people don't have time to take back bottles and cans, or maybe they just had a party or special event with a lot of returnables. We're here to help."
Drew attended Haslett High School, and focused on preparing for a job that would leverage his acumen for sorting, organizing and keeping things picked up and tidy. He tested his hand at recycling and found he liked the process. Over time, he steadily built the idea for a business, and formed Team Drew Bottle Service with the help of friends
"I like to recycle," says Drew. "We load up the car with bottles and go."