TOUR OF INDUSTRY SERIES: Recycling taken to a new level

Island Return It represents a big change in how we can recycle

Sophy Roberge of Island Return It shows the tour group one of the many pallets of older TVs that the company takes in for recycling each week.

Think you know everything you need to know about recycling on the Saanich Peninsula?

Sophy Roberge and the Island Return It centre in Sidney’s industrial area would like to challenge that knowledge. Island Return It was the final stop in the 2013 Tour of Industry, hosted by the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Still often called the Sidney Bottle Depot (that was it’s name not so long ago), Island Return It has expanded what recycling means in the community and the people who work there do their best to practice what they preach.

“We try to spread the word that recycling is integral,” says Roberge, the marketing and PR manager for Island Return It. “Every little bit counts.”

Hence the rebranding. Island Return It’s motto is More Than a Bottle Depot and Roberge pointed out to the tour group that there’s so much more that can be recycled these days.

Small appliances, electronics, paint cans, light bulbs, Christmas lights, fluorescent tubes — all are free to drop of at the centre for recycling. And of course, they still take bottles and cans.

Roberge said it’s simply amazing what kind of things can be recycled — and how many of them are still out there. Take, for instance, older tube-based television sets.

She said Island Return It collects between 10 and 12 pallets of them every week. They might be able to fit up to four TVs on a pallet (depending on their size), so that’s approximately 40-plus older TVs people were still using before upgrading to a newer model.

Those TVs, as well as other electronics (microwaves to electric toothbrushes), remain in Canada or the U.S., said Roberge, where their innards are harvested.

Gold, silver and other metals are recycled out of those systems and used for a variety of things — including the Vancouver winter Olympic medals, she said.

While the number of items that can be recycled is on the rise, there are others, said Roberge, that present problems. One of those is styrofoam.

“It is still a big problem,” she said. “It is a number one question. There are some places that do take it, but you have to pay for them to do it.”

Things are changing in that regard, she continued. Next year, Roberge said there’s a packaging program in the works that might allow recycling centres to take it in. However, the effort to reduce packaging, let alone find markets that can recycle it, will take public and political pressure.

“Right now, it’s up to local municipalities to deal with (large amount of styrofoam).”

With what can be recycled, Island Return In centres in Sidney, Ducnan, Esquimalt, cAmpbell River and Saltspring Island, take in some seven million containers each year. They are bagged and shipped to companies that shred them and re-use them in other products.

Roberge said the employees of Island Return It encourage as many people as possible to recycle.

“We are a positive business,” she said. “We encourage everyone to spread the word.”

With recycling well-established and growing, Roberge said they’ve made Island Return It a one-stop facility for everything from bottles and cans, to batteries and electronics.