Binning for Money

Reel NW

Contrary to stereotypes, many homeless people do work. The characters in “Carts of Darkness” get their “spending money” from “binning,” or scavenging for bottles and cans and returning them for cash. A 2002 study by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan U.S. research center, showed that 45 percent of homeless adults had worked in the last 30 days. But that number likely doesn’t include binning and other informal jobs. A 2010 study of binners in Victoria, British Columbia, showed that for many homeless people, binning was their only source of money. The study also revealed that: The binners often worked 4 to 6 hours a day, 5 to 7 days a week. The binners only got 5 to 20 cents per bottle, so they must collect large numbers to make money. Fifty-two percent of those studied earned $10-$30 a day from binning. Only 20 percent reported wearing protective garments like gloves during binning, though binners they were at risk from cuts and infections from broken glass or metal. Photo credit: Franco Folini, some rights reserved