When filmmaker Lynne Stopkewich set out to make a documentary with At Home participant Mr. MadDogg, she planned to film him traplining. But on the day of the shoot he was feeling too ill to go outside so they ended up doing something completely different with the film.

But just what is traplining? In the woods, when hunters go traplining, they’re checking their snares for catch. In Vancouver, traplining means something a little different.


Here At Home: A Model Person, National Film Board of Canada

For more than 20 years, Mr. MadDogg has combed the streets of Vancouver for recyclables. It’s a practice he refers to as “traplining.” His forays usually last all night as he hunts for bottles and cans to exchange for cash. The traplining route always ends at the bottle depot where, if it’s been a good night, he might get $60 for his haul. When he was still homeless, Mr. MadDogg traplined every night. But ever since he found housing with the At Home study, he’s cut back to once a week.

It’s exhausting work which requires a strategic approach: avoid glass because it’s too heavy; stick to aluminum and plastic as much as possible; watch out for (unfortunately frequent) suitcases with dead cats in them.

And Mr. MadDogg is alway on the lookout for a stray shopping cart to ferry his load. A shopping cart is a rare prize for a trapliner and it can really change the night’s outcome. Besides dead cats, people throw out all kinds of things, including working stereos and TVs. Finding a cart makes it possible to haul these big ticket items home.

Despite the rigours of the work, Mr. MadDogg enjoys traplining. “The streets are quiet,” he says, “I like that.”

Of course, here at the NFB, talk of shopping carts, homelessness and recyclables brings to mind another Film Board project: Murray Siple’s immortal “Carts of Darkness.”