United We Can and the Binners’ Project have been long-time community partners of Central City Foundation, so CCF is proud to have been a sponsor again this year in the Coffee Cup Revolution, a day to show the value of recycling coffee cups not just for environmental reasons but also as an opportunity for binners to earn an income.

On a sunny day this past September, binners once again lined up around Victory Square Park with bags and buggies full of coffee cups collected from the city streets and garbage bins awaiting their turn to earn $0.05 per cup. That price was subsidized by sponsors like CCF donors.

“Some people have been collecting for weeks,” said Godefroy, project coordinator of the Binners’ Project. “For them it’s a way to make extra money and a way to reduce waste, so it is a win-win situation.”

Central City Foundation was one of the first sponsors of the Coffee Cup Revolution and our support encouraged the Binners’ Project to put on the event for a second year. In those two years, hundreds of binners took part and more than 75,000 coffee cups were brought in.

There’s no doubt that a small coffee revolution has been brewing in Vancouver. Local independent cafés and roasteries have opened in nearly every neighbourhood, but our love for the bean has created a major waste problem.

In Canada, 1.6 billion coffee cups make their way to landfills. These cups could be a part of the recycling stream, but because of the chemicals used to make the cups, recycling plants need a different processing stream.

The Binners’ Project believes that binners are a part of the solution. If the government put a five cent recycling fee on cups like they do on bottles, binners would be incentivized to collect and return coffee cups, keeping them out of landfills. In turn, the recycling plants could afford adding coffee cups to their recycling program. This could work just like the collection of other drink containers does now, giving binners another stream of income. For many in the inner city with barriers to other employment, working as a binner is way to earn money and participate in the local economy.

“People already spend $5 for a latte, I don’t they’re going to even notice an extra five cents,” said Mike Leland, lead binner with the Binners’ Project.

The Coffee Cup Revolution took the event one step further this year by inviting local leaders from waste management, community organizations, the City of Vancouver and binners themselves to a round table discussion on the creation of a refund program for coffee cups and important role binners play in the community. Local artists also used the returned cups to create sculptures and artwork.

Many of the volunteers who participated in the September event are binners themselves who would like to see their work de-stigmatized.

“We’re trying to say that we’re not bad people,” said Leland. “We’re actually making a difference.”