Vancouver Island’s Bottle Depot: Making Recycling Fun

BottleDepotsmall-logo-150x150As the primary beverage container recycler in Victoria, Bottle Depot is typically awash in bottles and cans. In fact, last year the locally owned and operated company recycled enough beverage containers to fill an ice hockey rink seven-stories high.

What’s their secret? Mike Hipwell, general manager of Bottle Depot, attributes their success to convenience. The company offers recycling for a wide variety of products beyond beverage containers, including batteries, electronics, small appliances, electronic toys and lights and fixtures. Offering multiple recycling services helps drive Bottle Depot’s main business, beverage container recycling. “We know people don’t want to drive around to four different places to recycle,” Hipwell said. “It’s inconvenient.”

The company added battery recycling to their list of services in 2011. Since then, there has been a steady increase in battery collections. Hipwell says they are constantly working on improving customer awareness. Bottle Depot features battery recycling in its print and online ads, flyers, web site as well as ads on the TV screens in the customer service area.

“People must have cupboards full of batteries. It’s amazing to see how many are being donated,” he said of the continued growth of their battery collections. “We had to move from shipping in boxes to bulk shipping because of the volume.”

Out of the Cupboard into the Recycling Bin

Bottle Depot isn’t your typical recycler and it shows in both their operations and their results. Since 2011, the company has shipped almost 7,711 kg (17,000 lbs.) of primary and rechargeable batteries and more than 700 cellphones to Call2Recycle Canada for recycling. (BC regulation requires the recycling of both primary and rechargeable batteries.)

The company is on track to double their collections this year. Halfway through 2014, the company has collected almost 4,082 kg (9,000 lbs.) of primary and rechargeable batteries and cellphones—almost equal to their collections for 2013.

$100,000 for Charity

What sets Bottle Depot apart is its community spirit. It has a contagious enthusiasm for recycling. Take, for example, its ‘recycle for charity’ program. Bottle Depot installed beverage container kiosks in the front of its depots to encourage recycling. Residents can drive up and drop off their beverage containers; all deposit fees are donated to charity. In the past 3+ years, the kiosks have raised more than $100,000 (Canadian) for a wide range of local charities, including a cancer program, homeless shelter and food bank. Bottle Depot donates the labor and processing so that 100% of the proceeds go to the charity.

Hipwell says it’s a win-win for both Bottle Depot and the community because the program reaches residents who may not recycle. “Many people don’t want to throw it in the trash and they don’t want to spend time recycling,” said Hipwell. “But they will make the effort to donate it to charity.” The company also sponsors local sports teams and hosts bottle drives as fund-raisers for local charities and schools.

20 Years of Growth

Like Call2Recycle, Bottle Depot has been recycling for the past 20 years and plans to be around for at least 20 more. The company has grown from one employee to three depots and 40 employees. It’s on track to double its battery recycling results in 2014.

The company is also trying to change people’s views of waste management. Broad, convenient recycling programs; community support initiatives; clean, family-friendly facilities; and contests and giveaways are just a few ways Bottle Depot is dispelling the perception that recycling is dirty, disorganized and time-consuming. The proof that the strategy works? Their strong recycling results, especially in battery recycling.

Call2Recycle® is a product stewardship program providing no-cost battery and cellphone recycling solutions across the U.S. and Canada. Operated by Call2Recycle, Inc., a 501(c)4 nonprofit public service organization, the program is funded by battery and product manufacturers committed to responsible recycling.