Have you ever been enjoying a drink in the park and within seconds of finishing, someone is collecting your empty can or bottle? Or maybe you’ve seen your bottles and cans being collected from your curbside recycling bin. In Toronto, the individuals who pick these items up are known simply as can or bottle collectors. But in cities like Vancouver, they’re called binners, and they are part of a growing movement.
A binner is defined as, “A person who collects redeemable containers and other things from bins to sustain their livelihood and to divert waste from landfills; a dumpster diver.” (Binners’ Project). In Vancouver, the population that makes up the binner community includes many of the areas most marginalized groups, and they depend on binning for their livelihoods.
Initiatives like Vancouver’s Binners’ Project are empowering these individuals by building a community amongst binners and cultivating economic and social inclusion, all while diverting waste from landfill. In addition to building a space where binners can come together to talk about common goals, the Binners’ Project has evolved into a movement from which many innovative and important programs have evolved.
Binners are now hired to work at local events–including the city’s biggest music and arts festival, Khatsahlano–where they sort and collect all refundable containers. Another truly revolutionary initiative of Binners’ Project is the Binners hook, a locally designed, stainless steel hook that residents can purchase and install (or have a binner install) on their property. Residents then hang their refundable containers in bags, which makes for a safer, cleaner, and simpler experience for the binner. These hooks might not seem like much, but in the words of Binners’ Project staff, the action “acknowledges the contribution that binners make to communities, supports their economic stability, and adds dignity to their work.”
And this barely begins to articulate the enormous benefits that this project has for Vancouver’s vulnerable population, as well as for the environment. The project has produced many inspirational stories from individuals whose lives have been profoundly impacted. To learn more about Binners’ Project, visit their website, or check out the moving story of one Vancouver binner.
Binners’ Project is a project of Tides Canada’s shared platform. which supports on-the-ground efforts to create uncommon solutions for the common good. Tides Canada is a national Canadian charity dedicated to a healthy environment, social equity, and economic prosperity.
Photo credit: Robin Weidner
Allison is a citizen arborist, travel fiend, amateur birder, and baseball nut who lives in Toronto with her husband and their two dogs, Buster and Fox.