Trail, British Columbia-based KC Recycling is outfitting its workforce with KN95 masks to protect against the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19. The electronics recycling firm is going several steps further by donating thousands of masks to nearby schools. Beneficiaries include the Rossland Summit School and Seven Summits Centre for Learning in Rossland, British Columbia, the J. L. Crowe Secondary School in Trail, and the the James L. Webster Elementary School in Warfield, British Columbia.
“We had heard that the teachers really wanted N95 type respirator masks,” explains Pete Stamper, KC Recycling’s general manger. “I coach basketball at the school in my town, so I know what it’s like. This is a small community; you can actually make a difference with those kinds of things.”
As an industrial recycler, respiratory protection is commonplace, and the company has easy access to KN95 respirator masks. After giving employees masks for themselves and their families, KC Recycling began donating the first 1,000 masks to schools last week. Eventually, the company will distribute 6,000 masks. Employees with personal connections to individual schools helped deliver the goods.
“KC Recycling’s donation of masks for staff highlights communities coming together to support each other during these challenging times,” states Katherine Shearer, superintendent of Kootenay‑Columbia School District No. 20, where several schools have received masks. “SD20 appreciates their donation contributing to the health and safety of our schools.”
Stamper says his vision includes educating kids about recycling the materials his firm manages. “We are the processing center for hard-to-process material for much of North America,” he notes. “Although we are just a small company in BC, material comes from as far away as Quebec and California. We do this hard work for millions of people.”
KC Recycling processes lead acid batteries, cathode ray tube glass, and electronics. Stamper says in a recent staff meeting workers calculated that in 2021, the company managed 98.7 million pounds of recycling or 1.6 million pounds per employee. That equals 41 truckloads of material per worker.
Stamper would like to offer facility tours to schools if the proper safety protocols can be worked out, so kids think about recycling in new ways. “When you take your car to get a battery replaced, where does that old battery go? Most people don’t think about that, because someone else is worrying about that for you,” he says. “People are knowledgeable about milk containers or pop bottles. But the hard work of recycling more challenging materials like batteries is not top of mind.”
While planning to introduce recycling to the next generation, KC Recycling recently modified its facilities to better handle changing workforce demographics. “Historically, because of hazardous material exposure, women were not even considered for these kinds of jobs,” Stamper explains. “We now have many women on the workforce and are investing in appropriate showers and changing rooms to accommodate that kind of diversity.”
The company plans to keep its 60 employees busy. Using a CA$853,000 grant from the CleanBC Plastics Fund, KC Recycling intends to open the first polypropylene recycling facility in British Columbia to process car battery casings. Last summer, KC Recycling bought a battery recycling plant from Reno, Nev.-based Aqua Metals. The equipment is being assembled in Trail.
“We’re investing in big-time growth, and government and public policy are behind us. It’s an exciting time,” Stamper says.
All photos courtesy of KC Recycling. Featured image caption: Pete Stamper (left), KC Recycling’s general manager, donates masks at James L. Webster Elementary School in Warfield, British Columbia. First body image caption: Anya Hamill (right), KC Recycling’s human resources coordinator, donates masks at J. Lloyd Crowe Secondary School in Trail, British Columbia. Second body image caption: Regrind from recycled automotive battery casings is fed into this extruder at KC Recycling as part of the process to make reusable plastic pellets.