Manitobans are recycling beverage containers at a record rate, but the man spearheading the effort wants more.
Sixty-one per cent of pop cans, beer bottles, chocolate-milk cartons and other vessels were recycled in the province last year, the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association says.
Ken Friesen, its Winnipeg-based executive director, believes Manitobans can hit the CBCRA's stated goal of 75 per cent.
"We're very happy on a number of levels," he said.
Friesen has no illusions every person in the province will recycle every container, but things have come a long way since 2011, when just 42 per cent of cans and bottles were tossed in blue bins.
(It would be impossible to track recycling if each bottle or can had to be individually counted, so the CBCRA uses weight to come up with its figures.) Friesen credits his organization's multi-pronged approach in changing consumer behaviour.
First, it has invested heavily in awareness and promotion, including advertisements on television and on billboards about the baseball bats and airplane parts that can be made from recycled cans, as well as other products.
Second, it has made it as convenient as possible to recycle by placing more than 12,500 blue bins in schoolyards, parks, government buildings and businesses throughout the province last year.
"That's part of why we have so many more bins out there. It takes a couple of years to catch on. As businesses and people see the bins, they say, 'Why don't we have one in our business and our community?' " he said.
Friesen is getting some help from Bill Gould, president of WETT Sales & Distribution, which distributes beers such as Moosehead, Carlsberg and Samuel Adams in Manitoba.
He said his company recycles aluminum, glass, cardboard and plastic, including the containers for all of the beer it distributes. In particular, it picks out the proprietary green Moosehead bottles and sends them back to the brewery in New Brunswick to be washed and reused, all at a not-insignificant cost.
"We're environmentally conscious. We believe in handling our beer containers in a responsible way and recycling them. It's the right thing to do. I'm not trying to sound like a saint, but it's something we're very committed to," he said.
One of the city's most popular tourist sites is committed, too. Clare MacKay, vice-president of marketing and communications at The Forks North Portage Partnership, said the number of beverage-container recycling bins at The Forks has been boosted from six just a couple of years ago to 53.
"Everywhere there is a garbage container, there is a beverage recycling container as well. Usage (of recycling containers) has gone up 100 per cent in the last year," she said.
But that's not all on the environmental front. MacKay said the Forks Market has converted to a geothermal heat-pump system, food scraps from the restaurants are composted into a mulch, which is used as a natural fertilizer on the grass, and it also converts the restaurants' waste fryer oil into a form of biodiesel.
"When you're skating behind the Zamboni in the winter, it can literally smell like french fries," she said.
Recycling has been around for a couple of decades, but for the most part, it has been focused on residential programs. Friesen said its research has shown 30 per cent of beverage containers are opened up away from home, and few people will bother to take their bottles and cans home with them.
"The whole away-from-home recycling is new since 2010. That's less important for other packaging types. People don't walk down the street with a Kraft Dinner box and think, 'Where am I going to put this?' " he said.
Friesen said he wants to hit the 75 per cent mark by the end of 2016.
"The last 10 per cent is always the hardest, but we think we can do it within the next 21/2 years. We don't need to stop there, though," he said.