Vancouver invites binners to participate in new recycling plan

New public recycling bins popping up in some parts of Vancouver weren’t just designed with the city’s zero waste targets in mind.

The blue, wire mesh and acrylic glass receptacles planted alongside standard trash containers were also created to make it easier for Vancouver’s binners to collect empty beverage containers.

Some of Vancouver’s binners – who salvage reusable and recyclable materials from the city’s garbage bins for cash – were consulted in the design of the new containers, part of a pilot recycling program that will see 60 bins in place at Kitsilano, Sunset, English Bay and Second beaches and along Commercial Drive between Venables and 13th Avenue.

“There’s a door in front of the new bins that anybody can open,” said Neil Hastie, president and CEO of recycling company Encorp Pacific, which has partnered with the city of Vancouver on the initiative. “You can see right into the bin.”

Story continues below advertisement

The design should allow binners to spot their quarry without needing to dig through mounds of trash.

“We don’t mind if people take [the containers] because they will bring them to our recycling depots anyway,” said Hastie.

Vancouver charity group United We Can lent additional support to the pilot by speaking with local binners, collecting opinions, and publicizing the program, said general manager Gerry Martin. The biggest selling point was the container’s easy-access design.

“Anything that makes [a binner’s] life easier is an advantage,” he said. “Ease of use is key to success for them.”
Story continues below advertisement

United also helped Encorp and the city design and phrase posters and other literature to appeal to the binners.

“We changed ‘recycling opportunity’ to ‘binning opportunity’ so binners know they’re the target group [of this campaign],” said Martin.

However, the new bins won’t eliminate the need for binners to sort through regular garbage receptacles, said Ken Lyotier, former binner and United We Can founder. Binners look for other materials in addition to bottles and cans, he said, and many will likely continue to sort through regular trash for stray drink containers.

But Lyotier said he ultimately hopes the initiative will alter perceptions about Vancouver’s binning community.

“It might result in a change in public attitudes,” he said. “There’s potential here for us as a society to create workplace opportunities for people who are currently binning. There’s a social component, which I think is really important.”

And then, of course, there are the environmental benefits as the city seeks to meet a zero-waste target under its Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our research tells us the largest number of cans that end up in landfills are the ones discarded when people are out and about,” Encorp’s Hastie said. “We want to target areas like parks, beaches, and high-traffic areas as a way to improved out-of-home recycling.”

If the pilot proves successful it may expand to other pedestrian-heavy locations such as Robson and Davie streets and eventually roll out city-wide.

Sponsored content