British Columbia Takes the Green Approach

BC_BestPlaceOnEarth_SquareMention the words ‘British Columbia’ (B.C.) and most people have visions of stunning natural beauty, stretching from the western shores of Vancouver to the Canadian Rockies. Working to preserve these natural resources is B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment (B.C. MoE), which embraces recycling as a key component of its environmental strategy.

The B.C. MoE selected Call2Recycle Canada, Inc., as the all-battery collection and recycling agency for the province. The goal was to establish an all-battery recycling program that would focus on battery collection and education. Launched in mid-2010, the recycling program has been a success from day one. By the end of 2013, the province had nearly doubled its annual battery collections to 396,266 kg (873,617 pounds) from 206,449 kg (455,142 pounds) in 2011 (the first full collection year)–a 91% increase over three years.

Overall, B.C. was a key contributor to the one million kg of batteries collected in Canada during the first five months of 2014. By comparison, it took seven months to reach the same milestone in 2013 and nine months in 2012. B.C. led the Canadian provinces with a 44% increase in collections for this period.

Unique Challenges

Like many provinces, B.C. faces several unique challenges with its recycling program. One of the most pressing is its large geographic area. B.C. spans 587,411 square km (365,000 square miles) and encompasses a mix of urban and rural regional districts. This year, public education played a key role in bumping up collections across the entire province. “Advertisements in local community newsletters and municipality web site features contributed significantly to increased consumer awareness across British Columbia in 2013,” said Kristen Romilly, director, Western Canada, Call2Recycle®. “We can see a direct correlation between these activities and collection rates.”

While rural areas often rely on local newspaper ads and events to increase community recycling, the urban Metro Vancouver district relies on more formal promotions such as advertising, sponsorships and community events to get the word out.

In the Metro Vancouver Regional District, battery collections increased 27% in 2013 from the previous year due to greater consumer awareness. Through May 2014, collections were 88,127 kg (194,287 pounds), an increase of 9.3% over the same period in 2013. Activities such as a “TipZone” battery recycling event at Science World, EPIC Sustainable Living Festival appearance, Earth Day Canada promotions, Team Crocker and Team Moore women’s curling team sponsorships as well as ads and appearances by home improvement celebrity Shell Busey helped drive home the recycling message.

The good news is that many rural regional districts are now experiencing exceptional growth. In 2013 Cowichan Valley’s collections increased 62%; Okanagan-Similkameen collections increased 44%. Sunshine Coast collections increased 77% in 2013 and 21% so far in 2014, compared to the same periods the previous year. Newspaper ads and advertorials in papers such as the Metro, Kamloops Daily News, Kelowna Capital News and Prince George Citizen as well as features in the North Okanagan recycling calendar and the 2013 Green Guide, a newspaper insert, educated consumers on the benefits of keeping batteries out of the landfill.

For the first five months of 2014, regional districts such as Peace River (429%), Kootenay Boundary (112%) and Fraser Valley (63%) are showing strong growth over the same period in 2013, signaling that the battery recycling message is inspiring consumer action in smaller communities.

Another key factor in the program’s success has been the 1,602 recycling locations or roughly one site per 3,000 people. Participating sites include a mix of recycling depots, run by regional districts, and Call2Recycle drop-off boxes at convenient public and private locations. Call2Recycle’s unique collection boxes, often accompanied by posters or other flyers, can be found at retailers, government offices and other workplaces. Currently, 96% of British Columbians live within 15km of a public collection site—outpacing the rest of Canada.

Championing the Environment

Call2Recycle is also focused on keeping a small carbon footprint. All B.C. battery collections are sorted and many are further processed at a Retriev Technologies (formerly Toxco) battery recycling facility in Trail, B.C. By using processing partners that are locally based, Call2Recycle is able to reduce the impact of transportation on the environment.

During the past four years, Call2Recycle’s program in B.C. has evolved. A Call2Recycle web page offers the latest B.C. updates. The team is constantly searching for new ways to increase consumer awareness in the ever-changing urban and rural landscape. The hard work has paid off. B.C.’s overall battery collections has skyrocketed and the province has taken a significant step forward in protecting its natural resources for future generations by keeping batteries out of its landfills.

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