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.”
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