When Kim Burns’ husband PJ embarked on his master’s degree in environmental education, the couple started learning all kinds of things about what is happening to the planet and the ecosystem.
“I started feeling like I wanted to do something to make a difference,” she said.
So she started collecting recyclables from residents within her Murrayville housing complex. And as she collected, Burns said, she was shocked by the volume of returnables that accumulated.
“That was one week’s worth,” she said, pointing to a box full of dead batteries and a mound of plastic bags. “It surprised me – and that’s why I do what I do.”
What Burns does is volunteer with the Township Recycling Ambassador Program, an initiative for residents in multi-family complexes who want to increase recycling, reduce waste, and have an impact on where they live. Volunteers are provided with a training workshop, educational materials, posters and promotional items, along with ongoing assistance and support from Township staff.
Ambassadors educate and inspire their neighbours to recycle and take that extra step to keep items out of the landfill and the environment.
“We recycled and used our Blue Box before, but we never thought about it any more than that,” said Burns.
When she learned how toxic waste from discarded batteries can leach into the ground, she wanted to do more. So she went to the Township’s website, found out about the Ambassador Program at tol.ca/ambassador, and signed up in the summer of 2014.
“In a multiplex, you are responsible for so much more (waste production) than in a single family home,” said Burns, noting her Orangewood Country Homes complex has 111 units.
The strata council voted to support the program, collection bins were set up in the clubhouse, and Kim and PJ now take carloads of lightbulbs, plastic bags, and batteries to the recycling depot once or twice a week.
Kim has helped residents recycle their electronics, and taken unwanted items and re-used them around the complex where possible.
She noted that the secret to running a successful recycling initiative is to make collection easy and accessible, and have a rotation of people volunteering to help.
“People want to recycle but working people are busy and seniors are not always mobile,” she said. But once a collection point is established and people get into the habit, “It’s not that hard.”
“It’s working very well,” said Orangewood Strata president Hermine Benson.
She credits Kim and PJ’s infectious enthusiasm and the helpful information from Township solid waste coordinator Krista Daniszewski with getting everyone to join in.
Once the initial learning curve was overcome, Orangewood residents adopted the practice of separating their returnables from their trash. They even use their complex’s Facebook page to encourage residents to take part in the program.
“I thought our recycling efforts were a drop in the bucket until I saw this,” said Kim. “This is from one complex in one week. We want to inspire other places to do this. I want them to care. I want them to get involved. There is only so much room for garbage, and everything we do has an effect on the environment.”
Visit recyclinginbc.ca/mmbc-depots, call the recycling hotline at 604-RECYCLE or visit rcbc.ca. To become a Township Recycling Ambassador or to learn more, visit tol.ca/ambassador or call 604-532-7300.