United We Can and City of Van bring new bottle recycling depot to False Creek and binners get more work

The new Green Recycling Hub opened its doors last week in False Creek. The mayor said the initiative supports Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 zero waste goal.

Christine Smith has been going to the United We Can bottle depot for 14 years. Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

Christine Smith has been a binner for 14 years. The Downtown Eastside is “her area.” With her bike, which has a suitcase attached to the back, she wanders the sidewalks looking for cans and plastic to take to the United We Can bottle depot to earn $200 a week.

Since UWC moved from Hastings Street to Industrial Avenue, in the False Creek Flats, her days have become longer. But that doesn't bother her: “A lot of people are complaining because it’s away from the other one but, I mean, it’s a lot cleaner, a lot bigger, it doesn’t smell as bad as the one down there; it smelled like garbage every time you went in there. Here it doesn’t stink at all, that’s why I like it here,” she said.

Another binner, who said everybody calls him “Mouse,” agreed with Smith in terms of the smelly issue. Yet, Mouse does feel exhausted from rolling his cart all the way to the new location. He goes to two hotels every day, selects the trash, collects the recyclables, and then he heads to UWC. “I get tired from all the walking, that’s why I decided to come here once a day. To the other place I went two or three times a day, but if you are going to come here you have to make sure you have a real load,” he said.

Mouse says he can make up to $40 a day, and that’s enough reason to forget the fatigue.  “It’s good because you can get right in, get your stuff done and out of here,” he said.

It is faster because there’s more room to process heavy loads, like the ones he brings. The new United We Can headquarters are located within a 30,000-square-feet complex called Green Recycle Hub and shared with the for-profit Recycling Alternative.

Leased to the City of Vancouver at a below-market-value rate for UWC and at market rates for the private company, the new space’s extra room and wide-open gates let the air flow through and allows workers and binners to move around comfortably.

For the latter, there are also washroom facilities, coffee, and an automatic machine that gives them their deposits for their used beverage containers. Some 60,000 cans and bottles are brought in per day.

Meanwhile, Recycling Alternative has enough space for its composters, cardboard and mixed containers’ compactors, shredders, and other heavy equipment.

According to a press release sent when the Green Hub was officially opened last week, the idea is to create operational efficiencies, increase competitiveness, and serve both the business community and the community at large.

“This project is a powerful partnership that creates new jobs while strongly supporting Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 zero waste goal,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in the release.

Yet, for the binners like Christine Smith, the benefits of the new site are simpler. “It is in a better area. I feel more at ease. There are bad guys down there and I always had to look over my shoulder,” she said.

A third binner, Chris Hardy, added: “It’s kind of nice that I can relax and I can collect bottles all the way here and make 20 bucks or so; that’s all right.”

United We Can binner

Christine Smith collects recyclables while riding her bike. Photo: Valentina Ruiz L.

"Mouse," a binner from the Downtown Eastside who brings heavy loads to UWC every day. Photo: Valentina Ruiz L.

Chris Hardy makes a positive balance between the distance of the new location and the benefits he gets. Photo: Valentina Ruiz L.




Photos: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

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