Organizers of an annual Vancouver event that puts thousands of dollars into the pockets of the city’s binners are raising concerns after they were forced to change venues at the last minute to make room for a film shoot.
The one-day event offers binners — people who collect cans and bottles to return for their deposits — a cash refund for disposable coffee cups they collect.
Binners’ Project director Sean Miles said it acts as an important source of income for binners, while making a case for the environmental and social benefits of applying a deposit to single-use cups.
In 2019, binners collected just shy of 100,000 cups in a single day, diverting them from landfills to recycling.
“It’s really important. This is a day, especially now that it’s gone up to 10 cents a cup, that you could make $200 or $300,” veteran binner Michael Leland told Global News.
“This is our big day, this is what started it all. Being able to come here really made a big difference.”
But Miles said with just a month to go before the event was to take place, the Vancouver Park Board notified it that it was getting bumped from the location to make way for the shoot.
“We had already started promoting the event, we had gone through the permit process, we had paid for our permit. We, for all intents and purposes, thought we were ready to go,” he said.
“We were shocked and frustrated, frankly, especially given there was no discussion about it, it was not a matter of maybe or this might happen, it’s, ‘This is happening, it has happened.'”
Organizers scrambled to find a new location, settling on Oppenheimer Park, but Miles said it will end up costing about $5,000 more.
More concerning, Miles said, was the possibility that many people who rely on the event might not know about the change in venue.
Many of the participants are from a vulnerable population who doesn’t always have access to reliable communications, he said.
“They’re going to assume it’s here. They’re going to come here,” he said, adding that organizers would now need staff at the original site to redirect participants to the new location.
“Making a change in location is something that’s going to have an impact on who comes to it and how successful the event is.”
Coffee Cup Revolution will now go ahead at its new location on Oct. 7.
Global News requested an interview from a Vancouver Park Board spokesperson but was told no one would be available by deadline on Sunday.
Nadia Tchoumi, spokesperson for Vancouver’s Union Gospel Mission, called the move “disappointing,” adding it raises important questions about who gets to use public space in the city.
“Who are they for? Are they just going to be available to the highest bidder depending on the event that comes along?” Tchoumi said.
“When you have an event like this that is such a longstanding event that has made such a contribution to the community … I think you have to question why this even really wasn’t given the appreciation and the priority that it deserves.”
She said she’ll be watching the park board closely to see if similar events get bumped.