Homeless in Vancouver: B.C. binners get a raise as bottle deposit doubles

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      The refundable deposit on non-alcoholic beverage containers up to a litre in volume—that B.C. consumers pay at the cash register—will double from five cents to 10 cents on November 1, according to a CBC News report.

      This one, long-overdue change in British Columbia’s 20-year-bottle deposit rates could increase the value of a binner’s average bottle haul by as much as third.

      Reportedly, it is the only change being made to the antiquated single-use container deposit value structure maintained by Encorp Pacific. That's the industry-run, nonprofit group managing bottle deposit system in British Columbia for single-use, non-alcoholic beverage containers, as well as its collection and recycling through a provincewide network of Return-It recycling centres.

      Which is to say that the refundable deposit rate for any non-alcoholic beverage container over a litre in volume will continue to be 20 cents.

      Effectively the single rate change rationalizes the refundable deposit value structure of both non-alchoholic and alcoholic single-use beverage containers at 10 cents up to a litre and 20 cent over a litre.

      In addition to the higher return on effort and extra cash it will put in the pockets of hard-working subsistence binners—homeless, or “street-embedded individuals"—who absolutely rely on the money from bottle deposits, I predict that this one deposit value increase will, in turn, drive an increase in the following activities:

      • Retention-and-return of containers by the original consumers.
      • Binning as a legitimate second job.
      • Binning by homeowners in vehicles—the so-called “car binners” I warmly despise.

      And arguably, making non-alchoholic plastic and aluminum containers more valuable will have the inevitable effect of making glass wine bottles that much less desirable to binners.

      That much less reason to ever bin a glass wine bottle

      Detail of one of my binning loads from 2016—not a wine bottle to be seen!
      Stanley Q. Woodvine

      An unintended consequence of the increased value of non-alcoholic beverage containers will almost certainly be a further reduction in the collection—by the majority of binners—of glass wine bottles up to a litre in volume.

      Unless one is collecting containers with a car, or a pickup truck, carrying heavy glass wine bottles becomes an insuperable burden, weight and volume-wise, long before the bottles can add up to a valuable haul—especially for binners collecting on foot or on a bicycle.

      Aluminum pop cans and plastic water and juice containers are not only a fraction of the weight of glass wine bottles, but can—unlike wine bottles—be flattened to take up very little volume.

      Even when wine bottles up to a litre were twice the value of similar volume non-alcoholic containers, a non-motorized binner—limited by what they could physically carry—was nuts to even touch a wine bottle (or terribly desperate).

      Now that the non-alcoholic containers are the same value…geez Louise! Who will want to waste valuable carrying capacity on the dead weight of wine bottles—besides loathsome car binners, I mean?

      There really needs to be more rejuvenation and expansion of the deposit system for single-use containers.

      Certainly the refundable deposit rate should be raised for glass wine bottles, if not also for glass beer bottles.

      I don’t know, offhand, whether this is the responsibility of Encorp Pacific, or Brewers Distributor Ltd. (BDL)—the nonprofit extended producer responsibility (EPR) group, made up of the breweries Labatt and Molson—which oversees the deposit/return system for beer.

      However, I can think of several other, long overdue improvements that should be the responsibility of Encorp Pacific—the ERP made up of bottlers and retailers that make and sell non-alcoholic beverages—that was created by provincial legislation decades ago:

      Extend refundable deposits to all Tetra containers (Brik and gable top) for non-dairy “milks”, like soy, almond and oat [as was done years ago in Alberta by the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC)].

      And bring back the returnable deposit for single-use containers of coffee beverages (both bi-metal and aluminum), such as the popular Starbucks Doubleshot esspresso beverages.

      Make single-use paper coffee cup garbage disappear

      Finally, we need a provincewide deposit system to drive the return and recycling of single-use, poly-lined paper cups—ideally both the hot and cold cup variety.

      This one’s really a no-brainer. The provincial government simply needs to legislate the creation of another (the 18th, or so) nonprofit extended producer responsibility (EPR) group—this one made up of the main producers of single-use cup waste, including McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Tim Hortons.

      This EPR group would have the same objective as Encorp Pacific and BDL: to use a deposit scheme to rid the province of a category of single-use pollution, namely takeaway paper cups.

      It cannot be stated enough that poly-lined paper coffee cups have been and are recyclable through the province-wide blue box system since 2014.

      According to what RecycleBC has told me, the single-use paper coffee cups that make it into the blue box system are recycled in South Korea into things like toilet paper.

      The problem is that the majority of single-use paper cups never get near the provincial recycling system. They are tossed, willy-nilly, by the millions every week, into garbage that goes straight into the landfills.

      Everyone knows that binners motivated by a deposit system would ferret out over 90 percent of these paper cups for proper recycling, wherever they may be hiding.

      If the waste stream of single-use paper cups really is such a terrible problem then they need to be banned provincewide, once and for all.

      Either that, or they need to be made the subject of a provincewide deposit and return system that is run by the polluters and self-financed using unredeemed deposits, as is the case with the Encorp Pacific and BDL deposit systems.