Binners Project puts good cause to good use

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Most of the time, when someone sees a person sorting cans by the side of the road, people don’t give them a second look. One Vancouver organization is giving those “binners” a second chance.

The Binners Project was created in 2013 by Vancouver’s Ken Lyotier, founder of non-profit bottle depot United We Can. Utilizing a core group of Vancouver “binners” – independent recyclers who collect, sort, and sell recyclable materials – the Binners Project provides recycling services to businesses, events, and organizations throughout Vancouver.

The organization, under the Tides Canada project, comprises of three pilot programs: their Events Services, the Binners Hook, and Pick-up Services. The Binners Project has sent Vancouver binners to events like the Khatsahlano! Music + Arts Festival and the FIFA Women’s World Cup to collect and sort recyclables, and make a little money along the way.

“We are trying to do a lot of outreach, educate the public about binners and how they work, and basically [help them get] an honest way of making a living,” Priyanka Roy, an intern at Vancouver’s LED Lab working with the Binners’ Project told Vancity Buzz. “Doing events is a great way for them to earn an income, but also educate the public about what they do, and also make it easier for them to collect recyclables. They’re urban recyclers.”

The Binners Hook is a product that can be set up in alley ways, against walls, or on street corners, allowing recyclables to be placed in a convenient, easy-to-collect locations.

“Usually a lot of garbage is strewn around the dumpsters, and people leave bottles and cans for binners by the side of the bins, or on the road, and it can be perceived as littering,” says Roy. “The hook kind of solves the problem. Binners can collect the recycling, and they do it in a very clean way.”

The pick-up service provides businesses, organizations, and even homes with a box for refundables, and the Binners Project will send a binners right to the site to pick up materials. Roy says the added benefit of this is that the binners themselves are getting businesses on board, and receiving training on how to do so effective.

“We’re helping binners approach businesses, introduce themselves, and set up a relationship,” she says. “It’s sort of a leadership training that we’re providing as well.”

Roy says not only has the Binners Project given binners an opportunity to make a living, it’s also given them a chance at becoming a better, happier person.

“In the last two years, the core group members who have been participating in the project have changed so much,” she says. “In beginning some were feeling challenged by new ideas, and now they’re fully for it. If they go to an event and they make a pick up that’s small, they don’t say ‘It wasn’t enough,’ they say ‘No, we need more events!’ They want to do more.”

The Binners Project is always looking for more members. The group hosts a meeting every month, inviting binners from across Vancouver. Once binners attend three or more meetings, they have the option of joining the core group and taking part in the pilot projects.

“Binning typically is a very individualistic process,” says Roy. “A lot of binners do it because they don’t have to work a 9 to 5 job, and they don’t have to work with somebody else – they work solo a lot of the time. In the Binners Project it’s almost like the more they work together the more money they make, and they’re starting to realize that.”

More information, and how to get involved with the Binners’ Project, can be found at the Binners’ Project website.

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Shawn O'Hara Shawn is a Staff Writer at Vancity Buzz. He loves writing about news, arts, movies, comedy, and culture. Some would argue Shawn is too old to still play Dungeons & Dragons. Shawn would disagree.

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