Sixty specially designed recycling bins have been installed at city beaches and on Commercial Drive as part of a pilot program to increase beverage container recycling.
The project is a partnership between Encorp Pacific and the City of Vancouver.
Encorp Pacific, established in 1994, is a corporation mandated under the provincial recycling regulation to set up a collection and recycling program for beverage containers in British Columbia.
Neil Hastie, its president and CEO, said the corporation's job is to make recycling options more convenient for the public, which it does primarily through a network of 170 bottle depots that operate under license to Encorp. "We're now turning our attention to beverage containers that are consumed away from home, so it's a natural for us to take a look at putting these recycling receptacles on beaches and park areas and on high traffic pedestrian corridors," he said. "[The bins] are designed in such a way that the binners can see if there are empty containers in them and can take them out and take them down to the local depot, and get the refund, which of course is what they would like to do."
Encorp provided the bins, which were placed beside garbage cans and are worth between $500 and $600 each, for an investment of more than $30,000, while the city agreed to maintain them and remove any garbage that gets mistakenly deposited.
Hastie, who called it a good partnership between industry and government, noted it's easy to recycle at home, but much more difficult when out involved in a leisure activity. "There always seems to be very convenient garbage bins, but often there aren't recycling bins attached to them, so what happens is those recyclables, including beverage containers, go in the garbage bin and from the garbage bin, they go into the landfill," he said. "So these away-from-home recycling programs for beverage containers are starting to take hold because they're seen as the last inch in the road to getting zero waste."
Encorp consulted with United We Can, which operates a bottle depot on Hastings Street in the Downtown Eastside, before launching the project. "We wanted the binning community to be connected to this, so they would be supportive of it and in effect take a kind of ownership to keep these receptacles clean, neat and tidy," Hastie said. "Before we finalized the design we sat down with the folks from United We Can and went through a couple of different design iterations and came up with one they thought would work."
Ken Lyotier, the founder of United We Can who's since retired, said the pilot has potential and he's encouraged industry and government recognized the opportunity to reach out to binners.
"It would be very easy to set up a system that didn't include opportunities for the folks that are out there gathering that stuff today," he said. "This doesn't exclude them. This actually recognizes that they need to be participants in making this thing work and I'm happy that can happen."
Hastie said if the pilot is a success, it might expand to another area of the city.