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.
The event is one of many taking place at the UBC Learning Exchange this month, in conjunction with its 15th anniversary.
In addition to the binners’ unconference, patrons of the Learning Exchange will co-curate a new photography exhibition that runs from Oct. 20-31. The exhibition, called BETRAYED, Portraits of Strength, features portraits of human trafficking survivors in Bangladesh and Sierra Leone designed to spark discussion about global human trafficking as well as issues that hit closer to home such as the exploitation of Aboriginal women and girls in Canada.
Building trust in the DTES
Started in 1999, the UBC Learning Exchange bridges the gap between the university and some of the city’s most vulnerable peoples.
From their site at Main and Keefer, neighbourhood residents lead ESL classes, computer training and cultural programming for other residents. Many battle with poverty, addiction and mental health issues. Others are recent immigrants adjusting to life in Canada. UBC students and faculty also routinely volunteer their time at the site in a number of collaborative projects.
“Earning the trust of this community has been critical,” says director Kathleen Leahy, who credits the Learning Exchange’s staying power in the DTES to the strong connections it has forged with the residents. “People here are struggling, but they care for one another. Their lived experiences bring valuable insight and meaningful thought about pressing social issues.”
For more about the binners conference, click here.
For more about the BETRAYED, Portraits of Strength exhibition, click here.
For a full list of the events taking place in October, click here.