For 6 years, Mike took his weekly commute to the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club where he waited for the weekend waste to be brought out to the black bins in the parking lot next to the seawall. He would meticulously go through each bag searching mostly for bottles and cans. But every week, he would go home with a little something extra.
“I didn’t buy groceries for 6 years. What I stored up from the summer at the Yacht Club lasted me through to the end of winter, and then it started all back up again.”
Mike hasn’t been able to bin regularly since suffering a heart attack earlier in the spring, but recalls in detail the kinds of things he would take home.
“I’d get at least 5-6 steaks a week, dozens of unopened bags of potato chips, and infinite amounts of cheese and cheese blocks – expensive stuff too. Over the course of the year I probably would find 5 to 10 gallons of unopened alcohol. One time we found 12 bottles of unopened wine in one week.”
Not everything found its way back to his fridge, however. Mike says he was pretty picky about what he took with him.
“You have to be really careful about meat and know what’s good and what’s bad. I wouldn’t take anything that’s not wrapped and still sealed. It had to be contained and unopened. I also wasn’t big on cooked food because you didn’t know how well they cooked it or how it was prepared. It’s hard to tell if it’s gone bad or not.”
“But I will say this, I have never ever gotten sick - but I was very particular about what I took.”
Not every binner has this experience finding high quality foods in the amounts that Mike did at the Yacht Club.
“By no means was the average binner getting what I was getting in terms of food. The Yacht Club was special. These boats would come in, and since there was such little space in their fridges and freezers, when they were done they threw everything out.”
“It makes a bit of sense to me how these guys can throw their food away, because they think they have nowhere else to put it, but what really gets me is when I see food in the bin outside apartment buildings. I used to see that all the time when I was binning bin in Kits and North Van.”
Mike says there’s much better use for food that you have at home that you’re thinking about throwing away.
“Give it away! I did that a lot with people in my building. I shared an incredible amount of what I brought home – one of my neighbours didn’t buy condiments for 3 years.”
“People at the Yacht Club would know I was waiting out there when the trash came out. So they’d set their leftover food off to the side in a tied up bag, sometimes with a note on it or something.”
“If I could give any advice, I would say if you want to leave food out for someone in the alley, make sure it’s frozen first. Then you are giving that person a better chance of being able to get use out of it.”
And what does Mike think of all the food that is being wasted in our city? He’s not impressed.
“It’s disgusting what’s wasted in Canada, our grocery stores included. We should be giving food that’s not expired to the Food Bank or to someone who needs it. People earning $10 an hour can’t afford to buy groceries. Don’t tell me you feel good about throwing something good out of your fridge. Someone can use it. We do use it. Whether you find it disgusting or not, we do eat out of the dumpster.”
Today is our Coffee Cup Revolution event, and we’re talking about plastics and packaging. Bev and Kelly bin regularly, and have been with Binners’ Project since its inception.
They sat down with us to talk about what they like to find, and their favourite spots to look out for coffee cups.
You bin mostly at night, why does that work better for you?
Bev: It’s quieter, and there’s less people around so it makes it easier.
Kelly: We have flashlights so it makes things easier. The only thing we see sometimes are skunks, but we know to stay away from each other.
When do you usually go, and for how long?
Kelly: We have a route in Kits that we do, so we always go when we know it’s going to be garbage day. That way the bins are always out in the alleys. It takes us about 7 or 8 hours in total, with a little break in the middle.
What’s the most challenging about picking out bottles and cans from the bins?
Bev: It can get pretty messy, especially if the recycling isn’t sorted or anything. Sometimes I take some time and sort out the paper from the plastic and stuff if it’s really messy.
Kelly: It makes it easier when people put the cans outside of the bin in a bag or box for us. Out it Kits we see a few of the Binners Hooks around, and people hang bottles from there, which is helpful. It’s nice to know they’re expecting us to come, and it just makes it easier, and it’s quieter.
You both have been to many Coffee Cup Revolution events. How do you bin for coffee cups? Is it different than bottles and cans?
Kelly: We have been collecting some when we’re out on our regular runs at night, whenever we see them.
Bev: The best time of day for cups is lunch time, and we have this one block in Yaletown we like to go to. We’re usually picking them out of garbage cans, but they’re hard to get into now because they’re the bins that open from the front. It makes them difficult to reach into.
What are some things you would challenge others to do to help make sure their bottles & cans, and other packaging like coffee cups are getting recycled?
Kelly: It’s hard for us to get into the bins if things are really messy. Sometimes compost is mixed in with all the containers, and it’s hard to get things out. I think it’s what I said earlier - it’s helpful when people use a bag and put the can on the hook. It makes us feel like people are looking out for us.
Bev: We are all accountable to make sure things are going in the right place. From the person who throws it in the bin, to the janitors who are cleaning things up, to us binners who are putting things in the right place and recycling the cans. We all need to do our best to make sure things are being recycled.
Today in Waste Reduction Week we are celebrating Champions and Innovators in the waste reduction community. Part of Binners’ Project’s work in innovating in this sector is legitimizing the work binners do as informal recyclers through ensuring they are adequately compensated for their work at above minimum wage. Now, we offer a sorting service to buildings and events to ensure that binners are paid for their work.
On of our binner-staff Sam is an avid binner, picking up bottles and cans where he can, but also has a huge passion for recycling and cleaning the streets.
“I lead by example, If I’m walking by the garbage, I pick it up. I was taught that. This is my neighbourhood, my front door, my back door. Same as your front door, your back door. It’s all the same. Doesn’t matter if you’re on the other side of the world, we’re all part of the same society.”
Sam is our champion today because out of his passion for recycling, he does waste sorting for businesses beyond his paid work with Binners’ Project, with his only payment being the bottles he picks up along the way.
“I give them credit for allowing me to do it for them. If they can’t pay for the service, it’s better if I get to do it for them, instead of everything going into one bin.”
Sam’s challenges to you:
Let’s all work together to keep our streets clean!
-- Binners’ Project
Welcome to Textile Tuesday!
Jon is one of our newer binner-staff and is well known for his quirky style and making his own clothing. We sat down with him to hear more about how he finds and makes clothing.
What kind of things do you usually like to make from the items you find?
I really like making hats from scratch like this leather one I’m wearing. I also refurbish hats a lot if I find old ones, I’ll replace the plastic part in the brim and fix it up a bit.
What kind of material do you like to work with the most?
Usually leather - I love finding things made of leather like jackets and purses. But I also really like patterned things because they’re fun.
Sometimes I make jewelry out of old computer parts and other things I find, I like working with that kind of stuff too.
How do you make things?
I have a sewing machine and like to take what I find apart and make new things out of it. Like this leather hat I have, I made this out of a leather jacket that I found in the alley. I took it apart and made it into a hat instead - it took me about 6 months to make. I like to take my time.
Where do you normally find used clothing?
Sometimes things are just in the street, must most times I find them in alleys. I find people tend to put things outside of the bin if they think someone might be able to reuse them. That’s how I find most of my stuff, I never go inside the bins.
Why do you like to make things out of something old?
Everything has a purpose, and everything can be made beautiful again. I like spending time making new things out of something that's been used.
What would you challenge others to do when it comes to getting rid of their old clothing?
Don’t throw it away, or even put it in the alley. There’s tons of people who would love to make something new out of it, so you could either sell it online or give it away for free somewhere. If you want you could give it to a thrift store, sometimes I go there to find things for myself.
Here's some tips:
I’ve been collecting things that people leave behind in the alley for years – and it’s not just bottles and cans. I’ve decorated my whole Christmas tree with stuff I’ve found, and the majority of it was brand new – tags were still on them and everything. All of the artwork in my house are pictures people threw away because the glass was broken!
I learned a little bit about the Circular Economy for this pledge, and realized that the work I do in reusing things others have thrown away is part of it. Some things that are easy and fun to do are to make planters out of old rubber boots or tin cans.
Here’s my challenge to you!
PS: I can’t wait to hear more about the ways you’re reusing things! Feel free to share on our Facebook page.
The City of Vernon is making life even harder for binners and people who are homeless by banning the use of shopping carts in public spaces. Show your support for low-income people in Vernon and across the province by taking a moment to read and sign our short open letter here.
Together we can grow our communities to be inclusive, sustainable places -- let’s help Vernon see that!
To Mayor Mund & Vernon City Council,
Last week was a tough week to be a binner in British Columbia.
First, a Vancouver woman died after she was trapped in a clothing donation bin. Then, a story out of Victoria of two security guards using excessive force on a man taking bottles away from an outdoor mall, and now Vernon is implementing a city-wide ban on shopping carts in an effort to ‘reign-in homelessness’.
As many of us know, binners and people experiencing homelessness use carts and other makeshift contraptions as transportation for their bottles and cans, and personal belongings.
Carts are fundamental to a binners’ work – banning them is akin to banning an executive’s briefcase, or a courier’s bicycle.
We cannot move forward in reducing poverty in our communities by eliminating access to the tools that allow binners and people who are homeless to work and survive with dignity. This ban will only serve to further disadvantage the people that are already living on the margin. Instead of further marginalizing people who use carts, we should be working on innovative solutions that reclaim what shopping carts represent.
Around the world, work is underway to destigmatize and reimagine carts:
We urge the City of Vernon to reconsider their decision, and instead take a more inclusive approach. Supporting binners strengthens the local economy, grows waste diversion, and contributes to a society where people are accepted.
If you would like to learn more about how this work has unfolded in Vancouver and elsewhere, we encourage you to reach out to us.
Anna Godefroy & Davin Boutang, Binners’ Project
on behalf of the undersigned binners and their supporters
Over the past three weeks we’ve been gearing up for our busy summer season with a fundraising campaign. You may have seen emails from Davin, Bertha, Mark, and Jon, who all told stories about their experience with Binners’ Project and how your donations are going directly toward the programming we offer to binner members of the initiative. If you missed some of these messages, you can catch up by checking out our blog.
We’re excited to say we surpassed our goal and raised a grand total of $4,515.
Thank you so much to all who donated, all those who shared the binners stories through email and social media, and all who followed along eager to hear more from the binners.
We also wanted to take this time to share with you for the first time our Annual Report from 2017, which shows the impact we had last year. Specifically you will see that binners took home a total of $109,200 for their contribution to the project — along with refunds collected from bottles & cans. Importantly, our members learned lifelong professional skills and they report feeling more included in their community.
Without the support and donations from people like you, we would not be able to continue offering programming that strengthens the community and furthers our members’ ability to generate income for themselves.
Thank you for your generosity and continued backing of Binners’ Project.
Anna & Davin
PS We’re always looking for donations year-round to help keep our programs up and running. You can head to binnersproject.org/donate at any time to help continue our impact.
We’re just hours away from our fundraising deadline at midnight tonight. We’ve been blown away by the response so far, and we are so close to reaching $4,000. Will you help us get there?
Over the last few weeks you’ve heard from Bertha, Mark, and Jon about the work they’re doing this summer and the impact that your donations will have on their lives. In the grand scheme of things $4,000 might not sound like a lot of money, but it will make a huge difference to Binners’ Project. We run a very lean operation but have a large impact. Donate now to help us continue this work.
I’m proud to see how our binners are stepping up to the plate, eager to learn new things and excited to become staff members. I’m happy to say that with the money you’ve raised, we’ll have hired on five new binners as staff members – an important step forward in growing our team and building up binners for success.
The next step once they are staff is getting the binners trained up to lead teams, and coordinate our programs. It can be challenging to keep people on board, so providing them individual support is the best way we have found to do this. Just $25 covers one binner-staff’s participation in a training session to build their capacity in the long run. Please donate now.
Thank you so much for all your support of the binners and our programming.
Manager, Programs & Outreach
PS Our deadline is midnight!! Help us get to $4,000 by donating today.
It’s Jon again. We only have two days left to go before the end of our fundraising campaign! We’re still looking to raise the last $230 and we need your help to get there. Please donate now.
We had 124 opportunities for binners to do waste education and sorting this weekend – a new all-time record for Binners’ Project! To have enough binners for such a big weekend we went from an average of 40 binners at our weekly meetings to 70 binners last week. You can help support our weekly meetings by donating today. Just $5 covers the travel stipend for one binner to attend our meetings.
Last weekend was our first big event of the year and it was my first as a Team Lead. We were helping with the waste at Car Free Days on Denman street and Main street, and it was hard work but great to have new responsibilities. I feel proud of the work that I did.
I’m happy to report that everything went well with my team this weekend, and I’m excited to continue working as a Team Lead over the summer. I must admit, there is lots to learn – the binners can be challenging to coordinate, but it is so rewarding when I see them becoming better recyclers and more committed each time.
We’re really almost there - only $230 to go. Please help us have one of the best event seasons yet by donating today. I’d love to say my letter helped raise the last little bit of money for this campaign.
Thank you so much,
PS Help 5 binners attend one weekly meeting by donating 25$ to cover their travel stipends. And your donations are tax deductible!
This is Jon, and I’m one of Binners’ Project’s newest binner-staff. I’ve just joined on as a Team Lead and have been spending time hosting a Binners’ Project booth whenever we get invited to have one at an event. I love doing this work as it is helping me learn new skills, and you can help me continue by donating today.
Something that’s awesome about helping with the booth and with waste at events is getting to talk to all the people that come by. I like to wear fun clothes that I make with things I find binning, and the kids always get excited talking about what I’m wearing. I’ve learned so much about what can be recycled and how to do it properly from my years of binning, and it’s great to be able to share this with others.
That’s why I’m happy to be writing to you today, in the middle of our fundraising campaign. I checked in with Brianne earlier, and we have just over $1,000 left to raise before we reach our $4,000 goal. We still have a ways to go. Help us get there and donate here.
We’ve been busy working on making sure all the binner members are getting trained up in time for our event season this year. I’ve found that not only is it important for us binners to know how to properly sort waste, but also to feel comfortable when we’re talking with the public about Binners’ Project and what we do on our own. $10 covers one binner’s travel expenses to attend both a training session and a pre-event meeting. You can help build a binner’s capacity by donating right now.
Thanks for your support.
PS Our deadline for fundraising this summer is June 22, and that’s this Friday! You can help us reach our $4,000 goal by donating here.
All our latest news, events, announcements and press releases will be posted here.