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Keep coffee cups out of landfills: Binners want refund-deposit program

Binners brought in 48,000 coffee cups at this year’s pop-up recycling depot hosted by the Binners’ Project

Downtown Eastside residents Chantal Dumong and Philip Tom wait in line with garbage-bags full of paper coffee cups at Monday’s Coffee Cup Revolution at Victory Square.

Wanyee Li / Metro Order this photo

Downtown Eastside residents Chantal Dumong and Philip Tom wait in line with garbage-bags full of paper coffee cups at Monday’s Coffee Cup Revolution at Victory Square.

Linda LePretre collected more than 400 paper coffee cups in just a few downtown blocks, earning her $20 after she dropped them off at the Binners’ Project pop-up depot Monday morning.

Organizers of the third annual Coffee Cup Revolution aim to show governments that setting up a deposit-return program for paper coffee cups would keep them out of landfills and provide another source of income for Vancouver binners, who already collect cans and bottles.

Binners brought in 48,000 coffee cups at this year’s pop-up recycling depot hosted by the Binners’ Project

The Binners’ Project pop-up depot collected 48,000 paper coffee cups – the most ever – this year.

“The money helps. I’m not hurting where I have to do this constantly, but I’m doing it because it should be recycled,” said LePretre, who lined up with dozens others at the pop-up depot in Victoria Square. 

Most paper coffee cups end up in the landfill but the Binners’ Project will give the 48,000 paper coffee cups it received Monday to Regional Recycling. A small amount of paper coffee cups can be recycled with regular paper, according to the company, but the plastic coating inside coffee cups prevents the item from being recycled en mass.

The Binners' Project recieved 48,000 cups in the four hours it had its pop-up depot open for the annual Coffee Cup Revolution event in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Oct. 24, 2016.

Wanyee Li/Metro

The Binners' Project recieved 48,000 cups in the four hours it had its pop-up depot open for the annual Coffee Cup Revolution event in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside Oct. 24, 2016.

Advocates hope that by placing monetary value on coffee cups that would otherwise be thrown away, coffee-cup producers will come up with a fully recyclable product.

For some binners, a refund-deposit program for coffee cups is the difference between dinner and a missed meal.

“It would help us majorly. There are more coffee cups than there are bottles,” said Chantal Dumong, a resident at the Dominion Hotel, a SRO in the Downtown Eastside.

Paper cups also have the advantage of being lighter than bottles.

“Some people can’t carry bottles because they are too heavy.”

Anna Godefroy, director of the Binners' Project, helps out during the Coffee Cup Revolution where binners bring in paper coffee cups and receive five cents per cup in return.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Anna Godefroy, director of the Binners' Project, helps out during the Coffee Cup Revolution where binners bring in paper coffee cups and receive five cents per cup in return.

The Binners’ Project fundraises throughout the year to provide enough money for the Coffee Cup Revolution event, where it gives people five cents for every coffee cup brought in. The organization’s director wants to hold the event more often but can’t because of insufficient funds.

“The refund for the cups, the 5 cents for each cup is money we raised in advance through donations and partner organizations. We wish to do it more but we can’t because we are so understaffed,” said Anna Godefroy.

She has raised the idea of setting up a refund-deposit program for paper cups, similar to the one for beverage cans and bottles, with the City of Vancouver.

“The idea is to show if we extended this program to coffee cups, or cigarette butts, for instance, you would have less waste and people could also buy something to eat to survive,” she said.

Some city staff members attended Monday’s event, including the general manager of engineering services and director of waste management.

Godefroy also hopes the annual event shows policymakers that binning can be an important step toward a regular job for many people.

“Binners are marginalized people. They have a lot of health issues, addiction issues.

Dozens of people line up at Victory Square Monday morning to exchange coffee cups for money.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Dozens of people line up at Victory Square Monday morning to exchange coffee cups for money.

“But being a binner is an activity. It’s their job – an informal job. We try to keep that in mind and take the positive side of things.”

Linda LePetre waits while a volunteer counts the 400-plus paper coffee cups she brought in.

Wanyee Li/Metro

Linda LePetre waits while a volunteer counts the 400-plus paper coffee cups she brought in.

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