Binners Unconference on Oct 20, 2014 in Vancouver

A conference on binning is one way UBC’s Learning Exchange, now in its 15th year, is connecting with Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Ken Lyotier says dumpster diving is a lot like treasure hunting except the loot involved is bottles and cans that can be returned for a refund. “They’re the gold and silver of street recycling,” he says.

And while bottles and cans may be disposable, he knows people aren’t.

As the co-leader of the Binners’ Project, a working group for waste pickers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Lyotier is on a mission to improve working conditions for binning, an often-invisible job performed by many of the city’s homeless.

For the past several months, the group has met inside the carport at the UBC Learning Exchange, a community engagement initiative in the DTES, to talk shop.

“Binners spend most of their waking hours picking through garbage,” says Lyotier, a former binner and longtime partner of the Learning Exchange. “They help keep the city clean and should have a voice in waste management policy.”

A nickel for your thoughts

With this in mind, Lyotier’s group is inviting UBC students and the wider community to the UBC Learning Exchange for a binner’s conference – or unconference, as they prefer to call it – on October 20, from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The unconference – a more participatory approach to group meetings – will address the issues binners face, like locked dumpsters, and explore the idea of building a national network of street recyclers across Canada.

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