My wife Leanne works for the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society heading up the Community Engagement department. This amazing organization is the one of the only independent, not-for-profit recyclers in British Columbia.
Their vision is: “a waste free, socially responsible society.” Notice how their vision does NOT include “making as much money as possible by selling recovered materials to the highest bidder, regardless of whether that company is local or abroad, sustainable or not.”
Notice also that implicit in their vision is an active search to find local markets for material that is currently “non-recycleable” so that our society can truly become “waste free”.
In Maple Ridge, recycling started 40 years ago under the banner of SPEC, The Society Promoting Environmental Conservation. The point was to reduce waste, so revenue generated was put back into improving the operation.
Leanne’s parents were founding members of the recycling program in Maple Ridge, and they have been inspirational to both Leanne and I.
Here they are direct from the Our Founders page of the RMRS website.
Julie Koehn served the recycling effort in Maple Ridge continuously for almost 40 years until her daughter, Leanne, was hired in the education/outreach department at RMRS. Says Julie, “I remember when Bob Cordoni came back from the Earth Day conference with the idea of starting a local recycling depot. He inspired us. I went to Belkin Paperboard, with my baby in tow, to establish our first paper market.” An old shed on the Koehn property in Hammond was the first paper recycling depot. It was eventually replaced by a donated building sited at the Cottonwood landfill. The group had proposed the municipality fund their efforts, a proposal that was considered grandiose at the time. Says Julie, “Today, we are partners with the municipality. I think it’s wonderful. We’ve built amazing credibility and support.”
Dave Koehn was an early member of the local SPEC group and became the first president of the Ridge Meadows Recycling Society. Together with a group of dedicated volunteers, Dave helped find creative and innovative ways to improve recycling.” Dave was the volunteer depot manager at the Cottonwood site and started the first curbside collection. “We had an old cube van that barely ran. We received a grant and I hired our first truck drivers. I look around now and we have a fleet of trucks. I think ‘Wow! Right on!’” Dave has tremendous pride in the current recycling programs. “The faith we had in our ideas has come to fruition. Recycling is now looked at as a business. We’ve proven that it can work.”