Calgary Homeless Foundation Media Release: Calgary Research Finds Limited Panhandling But Rise in Bottle Picking

November 02, 2010

CALGARY, ALBERTA--(Marketwire - Nov. 2, 2010) - Results of a research study commissioned by the Calgary Homeless Foundation suggest while the number of individuals who panhandle in Calgary is decreasing, the number of people collecting bottles ("binning") is sharply on the rise.

"This research quickly showed that binning is more prevalent than panhandling," said Tim Richter President and CEO, the Calgary Homeless Foundation. "Either way, people choosing to panhandle or bin tend to be homeless and suffer from an addiction."

The ethnographic study, conducted between May and August 2010, identified only a small number of active panhandlers (approximately 30), compared with nearly 250 people who collect bottles in Calgary. Those who collected bottles said they turned to this activity because of the added pressure on panhandling and the economic downturn.

"This study gave us insight into what it is like for individuals who panhandle or collect bottles, so we can find focused and lasting solutions," said Cori Bender, Researcher. "Providing housing stability, alternative employment models and treatment for addictions will be critical to helping these people."

Individuals who panhandle earn about $20 per day and as much as $80 per day during special events. They are more likely to have severe health issues and be over 60 years old. Individuals who collect bottles earn on average of $25 to $40 per day (about $3.50 to $5.75/hour). People who collect bottles work on average of seven hours per day, often starting at 5:00 a.m. and travelling by foot as much as 25 kilometres in one-day.

About 20% of those interviewed for the study were housed. Most had active addictions which impacted their housing stability. While some said they would be less likely to collect bottles if they had stable housing, those who had been panhandling or collecting bottles for a long time said they would continue to maintain contact with their street families and friends. Those who collect bottles were frustrated that Calgarians did not see their contribution to the community as "recyclers."

To view the full panhandling research report, click here, or visit

The Calgary Homeless Foundation leads the implementation of Calgary's 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness. Issued in January 2008, Calgary's 10 Year Plan was created by the Calgary Committee to End Homelessness, a community-based, multi-stakeholder, leadership group who issued the Plan and selected the Foundation to implement the Plan. The Foundation is moving forward on Calgary's 10 Year Plan in partnership with the many homeless serving agencies, the private sector, our government partners, the faith community, other foundations and all Calgarians to end homelessness in Calgary once and for all. Calgarians wishing to contribute by making donations or volunteering are encouraged to visit the CHF website:

Interview Opportunities:

  • Cori Bender, Researcher
  • Tim Richter, President and CEO, Calgary Homeless Foundation  


Panhandling and Bottle Picking in Calgary

The Research

The Calgary Homeless Foundation commissioned an ethnographic research study on bottle picking and panhandling in Calgary from May to August, 2010.

Key Findings

Panhandling is decreasing while bottle picking is increasing in Calgary.

  • The researcher observed more than 244 bottle pickers.
  • Only a small number of panhandlers, approximately 30, remain active in Calgary. This observation confirms the Calgary Downtown Association findings.
  • Study participants consistently stated that more people turn to bottle picking due to added pressure on panhandling and the economic downturn.

Not all panhandlers and bottle pickers are homeless.

  • About 20% of interviewees were housed.
  • Some noted that if they had secure housing, they would be less likely to bin.
  • Long term bottle pickers and panhandlers who said they will continue to bin/panhandle even if housed, wanted to maintain contact with their street families and friends.

Panhandling and bottle picking earning are typically less than $40 per day.

  • A panhandler makes as much as $80 a day during special events, but usually only averages about $20 a day.
  • A typical bottle picker earns between $25 and $40; seven hours of bottle picking this translates to $3.57 to $5.71 per hour.
  • A single day of bottle picking can involve 25km of foot travel starting at 5AM.

Panhandlers and bottle pickers face complex issues to maintain housing stability, including low income and addictions.

  • Virtually all participants had active addictions issue impacting their housing stability.
  • Panhandlers were likelier to have severe health issues and be over 60 years old.
  • All pointed to a lack of income/high housing costs as a motivator to bin/panhandle.


Housing stability is an issue for all participants. Given the complex barriers they face, a rehousing and stabilization strategy should be developed that includes longer term intensive case management and rental assistance. Wrap-around addiction, employment and social integration supports are critical as well.

Participants in bottle picking recommended increasing awareness of their contribution to the city as recyclers.

To view the full panhandling research report, click here, or visit