Bottle Deposits in Ontario and Binning in BC
The Ontario government has decided that the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will start charging and returning a deposit on bottles bought through them. The Beer Store already has a return system, and part of the deal is the returns will be made through them, instead of LCBO outlets (for our non-Ontarion readers, yes liquor and beer sales are both centrally controlled in Ontario. Sort of.) Most provinces have a similar deposit program for liquor, Ontario seems to be a bit of a hold-out, until now.
There’s an interesting article in the Globe and Mail focusing on how this opens a space for homeless people to expand the work they can do salvaging and returning discarded bottles. In Vancouver, and to a lesser extent Victoria, ‘binners’ are the backbone of the informal economy. To the extent that it’s becoming pretty much formal in Van. In my time as a daily resident at the downtown branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library, I shared study space with current and former binners. They had a subtle working analysis of the subject – I gather it’s a job with a lot of time and distance and rate parameters, and making it profitable takes hard work and a lot of strategy. If you can do it it’s a more or less dependable living, and as the Globe article points out, provides a significant service.
Of course Ontario is a very different place for doing outside work or to be homeless in general. It’s just damn cold. But if there is an existing pool of binners then expanding their work presumably will be a good thing. Right now the material just gets dumped in a landfill, why not recover some of it and employ some people doing it? It’s no solution to chronic poverty, but it’s tough to suggest that it will structuralize it, given that poverty already seems to be well and truly structuralized. Maybe by providing some degree of stability and income it can provide homeless people with some of the time and resources it requires to advocated against structuralized poverty. Or maybe that’s fairy tale optimistic. I dunno.
Apparently, some people feel threatened by binners doing their work, and categorize it with aggressive panhandling. To that I say: wtf?