Last weekend, Confederation Park in North Burnaby saw the kickoff celebration for the BC Recycles Summer Ambassador Program.
This year, the program will send four SFU co-op students on a whirlwind tour of British Columbia to promote recycling.
The program has been in existence for nine years prior under the banner of the BC Used Oil Management Association, but this year it has been rebranded as “BC Recycles” to represent the new union of product stewardships it represents.
The students, Courtney Miller, Ali Russell, Sarah Pratt, and Kathleen Belton will be visiting various communities, including Kamloops, Prince George, and Prince Rupert. They hail from a range of faculties and academic backgrounds, but came together through the co-op program.
Russell, a fourth year communications student, explained her motivation behind applying for the position: “The one thing that sparked my interest is that my family has always been very eco-friendly. [. . .] So when I heard about BC recycles, I thought, ‘Oh that’s awesome!’ I’m actually really curious about how BC does it.”
Belton, a student in the faculty of environment, said, “I really want to work in public education and awareness with the environment, so I found that it was a really good opportunity to get out there and get some practice.”
“One big problem is that people drop off oil outside of business hours. [. . .] That can spill and create a mess.”
Miller, an English major, explained that the ambassadors intend to engage with local communities and ask them questions about their experience with recycling. She said, “It becomes a conversation, as opposed to me just saying ‘Hi. Here’s a website. Please use it.’”
The BC Recycles program represents 15 product stewardships, including Tire Stewardship BC, Electro Recycle, Canadian Battery Association, and the Health Products Stewardship Association.
These stewardships facilitate diverting used products away from landfills and towards being recycled responsibly. They are supported by the provincial government and each focuses on a unique set of products, such as tires, small electronics, medicine, batteries, and antifreeze.
The ambassadors also liaise with businesses under these stewardships to compile feedback about how the recycling program is working for them. Pratt gave an example: “One big problem is that people drop off oil outside of business hours, and that can spill and create a mess [. . .] we’re trying to help business out with that.”
She continued, “[We’re] flagging which stores are having the biggest issue with that and seeing what we can do to address their concerns.”
This summer, the Ambassadors will be promoting the BC Recycles app, which uses GPS to find the location of the user’s nearest recycling centre for whichever recyclables they have.
Miller elaborated, “It’s so much more than just bottles and plastics now. Everything that’s outside of that blue bin that you feel guilty throwing away, almost, there is [a] place for it to have another life, and that’s what were really trying to promote.”
“All the stewardships are making sure that they’re expanding the locations that will actually accept these products. So I think that that is actually really key,” said Belton.
“The more places that can accept the products, the easier it is for people, and the more people are going to do it.”