Co-op students inform recycling reform in BC

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This summer, four SFU communications students are taking a trip around the province to advocate for more sustainable practises.

The BC Used Oil Management Association’s (BCUOMA) Summer Ambassador Tour has sent the co-op students in teams of two on a 17-week endeavour to raise awareness on how to recycle as many things as possible.

On the tour — which began during the second week of May — the teams have been reaching out to different BC businesses, residents, and other industry associations to educate them about which materials can be recycled and how to dispose of them properly.

The first team is made up of Therese Mah and Susan Zhang and the second team, “Mo’ Waste, Mo’ Problems,” includes Tori Romano and Tiffany Lau. In a phone interview from Salt Spring Island, Romano and Lau shared their experiences so far with The Peak. Lau said that to her, it “seemed like a really meaningful opportunity,” since it gives her the chance to experience the beauty of nature while simultaneously working to preserve it.

For Romano, the main message she wants to get across is that everyone is capable of making a difference — and in ways they may not expect. “I think a lot of people don’t realize a lot of products they have and a lot of packaging they have can be recycled,” said Lau.

The two expressed that although it is their objective to educate the public, the tour has been a learning experience for them both. “We’ve learned a lot about what we can recycle, like old medication, car batteries, oil, and tires,” said Romano.

As a presentation tool, they bring along a few jars filled with material in its various phases of being recycled. The three jars show how oil goes from being used and dirty, to being cleaned, and, finally, how it is turned into small pellets that are sold to be used in plastic products. According to Lau, this helps to get people to be “enthusiastic about seeing what their products actually turn into after being recycled.”

They also offer retailers pamphlets and signage geared toward informing the public about what can be recycled at certain locations. This is meant to discourage people from dropping off materials outside after hours.

Despite the free service, many people are worried about being charged a fee for dropping off uncommon recyclable materials, such as used oil or antifreeze. This poses a problem to the organizations that accept them, because materials left outside are at risk of contamination.

One stop on their tour was a London Drugs in Duncan, which has its own recycling centre that accepts used batteries stored in sandwich bags. Some other highlights for the pair have been visiting places like Home Hardware or recycling depots, where mass amounts of recycled materials are accepted regularly.

Romano said they were encouraged by the energy of the people working in these places: “Everyone we speak to seems to be very passionate about what they do. It’s really great to see that, in general, people are just really enthusiastic about making this a big movement.”