POPPING a plastic bottle into a recycling bin made a high school student $5,000 richer.
On Thursday, Colin Bazin, an 18-year-old from Centre scolaire Léo-Rémillard, beamed as he received an oversized cheque.
"I feel very lucky," he said, a smile almost bursting out from under his face mask.
Bazin became the first monthly prize winner of a new incentive program from Recycle Everywhere and its parent organization the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association.
The program uses the Recycle Everywhere app, which was launched March 16. People can use the app to scan any recycling bin, in public or at home, then the barcode on their plastic bottle, aluminum can, or juice box before they throw it in the bin. Containers for dairy and alcoholic beverages, however, won’t work.
That earns users a ballot for draws held daily, weekly, monthly and bi-annually. Prize amounts are $100 daily, $1,000 weekly, $5,000 monthly and $25,000 biannually in cash, cheques or gift cards.
By Wednesday evening, the app had been downloaded 1,350 times, with 878 of those having registered accounts, said Lora Meseman of Recycle Everywhere.
The association funds the program with money it gets from the container recycling fee. Beverage producers pay that fee, ranging from one to three cents per item, for every unit sold in Manitoba.
Executive director Ken Friesen said the program hopes to boost the overall rate of recovery for beverage containers to the government-mandated 75 per cent. He said there are 70,000 Recycle Everywhere bins in the province.
"Keeping these materials in that circular economy ends up keeping that money in that circular economy," he said. "So, you’re not having to go and take out new oil or bauxite, etc."
Recycle Everywhere announced Thursday it has become a partner in the Canada Plastics Pact, a non-profit dedicated to increasing the percentage of plastics that get recycled. The most recent data from the federal government show Canadians only recycle nine per cent of all plastics. The rest — around three million tonnes of plastic — ends up in landfills or seeping into the environment.
"We have a broad vision to get that to basically 90 per cent being recirculated through the system," said managing director George Roter.
He acknowledged the goal is lofty: it has set an interim target of 50 per cent by 2025. The group’s website lists 54 partners, including Recycle Everywhere.
While the non-profit cannot impose penalties, said Roter, it does require its partners to sign an agreement to work toward the goals.
He hopes this will give companies an incentive to meet goals, he said, or at least make it more difficult for them to claim to be greener than they are. They’re also asked to send robust reports at the end of the year, which will be made public, he said.
Canada may be a long way off from celebrating its recycling achievements, but Bazin was already celebrating his.
"Recycling is essential in our society today," he said. "So, to be compensated for and rewarded for recycling is really something special."
With graduation approaching, he’s getting ready to tackle the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba next fall. That’s a big undertaking with a big price tag. But Bazin said he’ll begin his business career with a prudent financial move.
"School is not cheap. An extra five grand is, for sure, going to help me out," said Bazin. "It’s all going toward my education."
Well, not all of it, he corrected.
"I did promise my family I’m going to pick them up a bit of Tims on the way back, but other than that, education is where it’s going."