Wednesday, March 19, 2008

United We Can

George Metrakos of United We CanToday I went to see George Metrakos, the executive director of United We Can. His organization is well known on the downtown east side for all sorts of programs to assist people in the area who are challenged with numerous obstacles. He operates a bicycle repair shop, a computer shop, a house plant rescue center, and one of the busiest Encorp Recycling Centers in Vancouver. The goal at United We Can is to create jobs and skills for those who want to have an opportunity to get clean and a reason to get up and show up.

I came across George because of a fantastic new program he has started. Its called UBU, short for Urban Binning Unit. What is an UBU? Its a mobile cart custom designed to collect recyclable containers. He works with "Binners", people who make a living collecting recyclable containers from trash bins, and turns it into a reputable business opportunity to connect the Binner and corporate customers. He has taken digging in trash cans and using shopping carts into a sustainable, modern, eco friendly, business opportunity.

Here's how it all works. All a "Binner" needs to do is show up at United We Can's office in the morning and sign out a UBU cart. George will give them a route of predetermined companies who have stored recycled containers for a scheduled pick up. The Binner will then walk or attach the UBU to their bicycle and make their rounds collecting throughout the downtown area and as far away as Broadway. When their UBU is full, they return to the United We Can recycling depot and sort their cargo. Each UBU Binner is dressed in a sharp uniform and visibly shows a ID badge identifying himself.

Each Binner can make money from the recycling refunds, and as well, United We Can pays the Binners by the hour. It was a great project to see in action and a very clever way to connect the downtown east side with the corporate side of Vancouver. The SFU Psychology class has been so impressed with the project that each day one or two students accompany the UBU collectors on their routes to assist and immerse themselves in the lives and stories of the Binners.

It seems a natural fit for Costless Express to support George and the UBU project. We sell over 3,000,000 recycled containers per year and a portion are delivered to downtown customers in George's area. I thought we could help set up some customers to have scheduled UBU pick ups. I will continue to work with George to roll out the program from the current 10 UBU's to a target of over 40 UBUs.

Great work George, and all the staff at United We Can!