The annual Coffee Cup Revolution is community-led and run by low-income residents. The event includes a pop-up recycling depot, roundtable discussions, and awareness raising around issues of sustainable living, green waste disposal, and economic inclusion.
Problems and Purpose
The Coffee Cup Revolution was started in 2014 by the Binners’ Project, a Vancouver based collective that advocates for economic inclusion and sustainable living. The annual event seeks to work with and for ‘binners; “a person who collects redeemable containers and other things from bins to sustain their livelihood and to divert waste from landfills; a dumpster diver,” (Binners’ Project, 2017) and as such seeks to foster economic inclusion geared towards the reduction of waste through collaborative effort of its members and the surrounding local community. It seeks to combat excess waste and alleviate poverty through initiatives that seek to reduce the incredible volume of coffee cup waste in Vancouver.
Background History and Context
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Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The initiative is hosted by The Binners’ Project, a group of individuals who advocate and support economically marginalized individuals who subsist off the refunds given for recycling bottles. The project seeks to transform the negative stigma on the ‘binners’ who form the bulk of the group and improve their economic opportunities through various campaigns. These campaigns include a pick-up service, back-of-house sorting, and public waste education, though this study will focus on their ‘Coffee Cup Revolution.’ This is a collaborative effort in the community to alleviate problems within the community.
Their extensive funding comes from many organisations within the community. These include Simon Fraser University, BC Housing, HMCA, City of Vancouver and Radius among others. In addition to these sponsors, the group actively strives to secure additional funding directly from the community, asking locals for help to continue providing their various initiatives.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Selection for these initiatives is largely voluntary and open-door. At the initiative's core lies a group of ‘binners,’ a committee who steer the campaigns and a small group of staff. They are also supported with a charity platform through which the local community and various government entities can get on board through its association with the Tides Canada Shared Platform. This is a charity rooted in connecting various community and governmental entities for “the common good.” (Tides Canada, 2017)
Methods and Tools Used
The Coffee Cup Revolution is an initiative firmly rooted in its position to the community in which it is based. As such, interaction with the public is at the forefront of its operation. Working with the various groups who fund it and the strong community of ‘binners,’ the initiative relies on the co-operation between people in the local community to achieve its aims. The use of their ‘pop-up depots’ and ‘roundtable discussions’ are well within the public eye and are well advertised through its presence within the community and through the media. The initiative works in tandem with the public, campaigning for funding and voluntary help.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The Steering Committee of the Binners’ Project hold the reigns in terms of oversight and direction for the Coffee Cup Revolution. This committee works in tandem with the staff of five and the community of ‘binners’ which form the core of their movement.
The bulk of decision making is made through ‘roundtable discussions’ in which a number of the core ‘binner’ group will work together with four community leaders. Through these discussions, those who hold a stake in the initiatives being undertaken are given a platform to shape the campaign and allow for open discussion on topics which are relevant to their goals: economic inclusion, community building and reducing waste. These discussions are held simultaneously with ‘pop-up depots’ in which the members orchestrate the organisation of a depot in which 150+ ‘binners’ are able to trade in the coffee cups, around which the whole Coffee Cup Revolution is centred, for money which facilitates the goals mentioned previously.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The group hold strong favour in the community because of their maintained and active presence within Vancouver, favourable media presence and equitable aims. Having been endorsed by multiple business and governmental entities, their initiatives are emboldened.
They cite multiple successes on their site. Anna Godefrey, one of the Steering Committee, remarks on their “higher turnout” (Boynton, S and Hua, J, (2017) year on year in an article from Global News, a success through the city opening “the issue of reducing waste” (Hennig, C, 2017) through public consultation is mentioned in one from CBC Canada, mentioned again in another from Metro News (Li, W, 2017) and further proof of influence and positive reception is noted by Morales (2016) and Walters (2014) in other Vancouver based news outlets, cited in full below.
The success of their depot for the exchange of coffee cups for money is enshrined on the Coffee Cup Revolution page of their site (Binners’ Project, 2017) citing their “considerable community and media interest” following “year-round educational work on waste diversion and economic inclusion,” claims that are reinforced by the aforementioned media articles.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The positive outcomes of the Coffee Cup Revolution are a testament to the community driven approach that the initiative is taking. They have identified an issue, that Vancouver wastes an incredible quantity of coffee cups per annum. This waste persists due to a recycling issue with the material they are made from and a lack of incentive for those who make a living off waste reduction (the ‘binners.) to act upon the issue. Through deliberation driven by the Steering Committee and discussed through use of ‘roundtable’ style meetings involving groups both directly affected and able to gain from the issue, as well as those who hold a stake in their local community, they have come to build initiatives that set out to remedy the issue in a way that involves as much of the community as possible, and one that meets its aims; economic inclusivity, community building and waste reduction. Having passed its first round of public consultation and awaiting its second, the single-use policy on cups brought to the fore by the efforts of the Coffee Cup Revolution is sure to be proof of its success as an example of citizen led participatory democratic means.
The open, inclusive and peer led nature of decision making, and deliberation helps to foster an atmosphere of co-operation. The relatively laissez-faire structure of governance within the group lends to much of its success in this regard. The sponsorship by many local business and government bodies furthers this atmosphere in a way that allows the group to operate well in the public sphere and enable its continuing successes. As the primary incentives for this case lie within the purview of socioeconomic improvement in its respective community, there is little to worry about in terms of exploitation or coercion in order to achieve its aims. It’s core values are shared widely within the group and within the local community of Vancouver. The way it operates is conveyed in a transparent manner, bolstered by its open-door participant selection in a way that allows for a coherent, collective effort to remedy excess waste whilst helping to alleviate the economic pressures on the ‘binners’ and ensures, given the strong community backing, that it is representative of Vancouver and its citizens. This statement is enshrined through the bestowing of the Award of Excellence for 2017 to the Binners’ Project (University of British Columbia, 2017) earlier this year.
The most apparently limitation is the initiative's youth. Having only been established in 2014, its various successes, while suggestive of a promising future, are sure to be more susceptible to critical analysis as the group progresses. Given the socially and economically just nature of their aims and a participatory structure that complements these them, it is easy to envision continuing excellence, though until we witness the Coffee Cup Revolutions’ potentially exponential influence and accomplishments we are left only with proof from the media and through its own platforms of communication.
Boynton, S and Hua, J. (2017). With millions of coffee cups thrown away in Vancouver every year, advocates push for refund-deposit system. Available: https://globalnews.ca/news/3806846/with-millions-of-coffee-cups-thrown-a.... Last accessed 8th November 2017.
Hennig, C. (2017). Revolution in a coffee cup: Vancouver event aims to reduce waste. Available: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-supports-coffee.... Last accessed 8th November 2017.
Li, W. (2017). Vancouver moves ahead with plan to reduce paper cups and takeout container. Available: http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/06/27/vancouver-moves-forwar.... Last accessed 8th November 2017. [BROKEN LINK]
Morales, M. (2016). Why You're Still Not Using that Reusable Coffee Mug. Available: https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2016/04/07/Reusable-Coffee-Mug/. Last accessed 8th November 2017.
The University of British Columbia. (2017). Binners' Project is Honoured by City of Vancouver. Available: https://learningexchange3.sites.olt.ubc.ca/2017/03/15/binners-project... Last accessed 9th November 2017.
Walters, N. (2014). Vancouver binners unite to talk trash with city. Available: https://thethunderbird.ca/2014/11/26/vancouver-binners-unite-to-talk-tra.... Last accessed 8th November 2017.
Binners’ Project: https://www.binnersproject.org/
Tides Canada: http://tidescanada.org/