Raw footage for "Chicago Slices," a television series on life in Chicagoland. In this video, we meet Gary Zuckerman, who runs his own recycling business. Zuckerman talks about how he got into this work and reflects on recycling. His assistant and sidekick, Lee Feeder, Zuckerman's wife Leila, and their two sons Lev and Noam, also make appearances.
00:00Copy video clip URL The tape opens with street scenes in downtown Chicago, followed by a ride heading north on Lake Shore Drive.
03:24Copy video clip URL In front of his house, Gary Zuckerman climbs into his recycling truck with his kids, Lev and Noam, and they drive away. Blumberg records the truck on the road from another car as they drive.
09:35Copy video clip URL The truck arrives at its destination, where assistant Lee Feeder helps Zuckerman unload the 55-gallon drums off the truck. Zuckerman opens the garage door, and explains that their new project is saving buckets that would otherwise be put in the garbage. He explains that it is not their goal to make money.
13:45Copy video clip URL Zuckerman describes his background: he has a degree in accounting, lived on a kibbutz in Israel for a while, and notes that his dad is a hazan–a cantorial singer in the synagogue. He says that he’s also a spiritual guy, and he doesn’t want to work too much because it takes away from the spirituality.
15:05Copy video clip URL Zuckerman says that they either reuse, re-sell, or recycle 98% of all the items they pick up. He says that his brother, a “radical thinker,” was recycling in the 1960s, and got him started in the recycling business. Because his brother is emotionally disabled, he is no longer able to work.
18:02Copy video clip URL Feeder says that he stays fit by lifting and breaking cement for a living.
20:30Copy video clip URL Zuckerman explains the circumstances of getting into work as a recycler: he was working for the State of Illinois and quit his job. The turning point for Zuckerman was Earth Day, 1990 when he decided to start this project. He credits his wife with supporting him, and says that he’s giving the business five years to break even.
23:40Copy video clip URL Zuckerman says that he enjoys being outside and building muscle, since he didn’t have any as a kid. Feeder tells how he got into this business with Zuckerman, explaining that he couldn’t keep a job for a while, and has been working with Zuckerman now for 18 months. Because Feeder knew the suburbs really well, he could help Zuckerman get around. He says that Zuckerman is really easy to work for, and that he loves his boys.
27:40Copy video clip URL The two start hauling things into the garage. Leila comes in, describing their parents’ reaction to their decision to get into the business. She says that although they aren’t making money yet, she feels hopeful that things will continue to pick up. She comments on Zuckerman’s change in physique as a result of his work. She jokes that that they go through a lot of soap.
31:58Copy video clip URL Zuckerman gets back on the truck and they talk about terminology related to the material they pick up, explaining words such as pilestock, schmutz, and drek. Zuckerman continues by telling the story of how they collected buckets from a local factory, rinsed them out, put handles on them and are selling them for a dollar each. He calls his company “Recycle Plus.”
39:40Copy video clip URL Zuckerman gets in the truck, and starts it up. Blumberg asks him about his brother and his work with emotionally disturbed people. Zuckerman explains that he had hoped his brother would work with him, but his brother is too stubborn. Zuckerman then talks about his connection with Threshholds, a non-profit organization that helps people with physical and emotional disabilities. This organization is how he was originally connected with Feeder.
42:33Copy video clip URL Feeder tells a little about his difficulty with his family and previous employers because of his emotional problems. Feeder says that he has learned a lot from Zuckerman, especially in terms of eating healthy and taking care of himself.
44:50Copy video clip URL Zuckerman says that Feeder has a great disposition and a positive spirit.
46:00Copy video clip URL Feeder gets back in the truck, saying that he’s worked in demolition in the past. He also says he enjoys softball, saying that he used to play and kept score for his softball league. Zuckerman gets back in the truck, and they drive through the alley onto the street. Blumberg tapes them from the other car as they drive again.
49:00Copy video clip URL Zuckerman and Feeder get out of the truck. Feeder puts on his gloves and hauls a bunch of empty beer bottles and boxes to the truck. Blumberg asks Zuckerman how he uses his intellect in his work, and Zuckerman talks about his work ethic and the ways he stimulates his mind. He tells the story of how Feeder once picked up an engine weighing 350 pounds.
58:12Copy video clip URL Blumberg asks him about the Bible and his work, and Zuckerman points out that the Old Testament says that you need to care for your land. Feeder shows a piece of wax cardboard that cannot be recycled. Zuckerman then expresses frustration with all the garbage being thrown out, when much of it can be diverted from the landfill. He hopes that someone will watch this piece and get involved in helping the recycling cause.
01:03:10Copy video clip URL End of tape.