Greening Up Fort St. James (GUF), is an organization on a mission.
The group, within the past year, has literally brought the Fort forward in leaps and bounds.
Late last year, the group received delivery of their first bins to begin a small recycling project in the Fort, for paper and cardboard.
Since then, they have worked on public education about recycling opportunities in the community, helped bring a curbside recycling business into fruition, and gotten many businesses on board.
And GUF did not stop there, but has been working since January to plan the next step in their recycling ambitions – a building for a recycling centre.
Jana Gainor, recycling coordinator for the group, has worked about 60 hours a month on budgets and in-depth research, reading and speaking to other communities who have already implemented their own recycling centres.
In July, the group applied for a grant from the Integris Community Foundation, making a detailed presentation on August 23, which Gainor had prepared long and hard for.
On Saturday, August 27, the group received a cheque presentation at the new Integris grand opening for $68,000, the single largest Integris Community Foundation funding allocation so far.
Joan Burndeniuk, Fort St. James branch manager, gave a speech in praise of the hard work the women of GUF have done so far, saying they had “extraordinary vision, dedication and leadership.”
The $68,000 is for the construction of a recycling centre building, which will be located where the recycling bins are now, next to the bottle depot.
The building will be about 1,000 square feet, and will eventually house a bailer, which will allow for the recyclable materials the group collects to be sold to buyers.
Currently, the group has to pay to have the unbailed materials shipped. The paper and cardboard are then bailed there before being recycled.
The recycling centre will also be helped by the District of Fort St. James, which has agreed to donate the land for the centre, and as well by federal gas tax funding through the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.
Tom Greenaway, area representative for the regional district, said he has high hopes for what the group is doing and for the funding partners.
“If we can make recycling so they can make a profit on it, then we’re laughing some day,” said Greenaway. “Then our landfill costs are going to go way down, then it’s a win-win situation.”
According to Greenaway, waste transfer and running the landfill are the single largest cost to running the regional district, so any long-term plans to reduce this cost, will not only benefit the environment, but will also benefit the regional district financially as well.
While Smithers has long been the leader in recycling in the regional district, with a bigger community and having been at it longer, Greenaway said “it’s nice to see the Fort jump right out there now.”
The recycling centre should eventually allow GUF to offer a much broader range of recycling for the community, from plastics to tin cans and perhaps eventually glass.
While the grant funding from the foundation is only the beginning, Gainor said they already have a plan for what else will be needed. The group will be reapplying for gas tax money to get the funding for the additional items they will need to complete the centre such as bins, a pallet jack, a bailer and the utilities hooked up.
There will still be a need for an additional $50,000, but the money they now have should allow them to begin construction in October of this year, getting the foundation in place before the snow comes.
With their goal to make the recycling in the community a self-sustaingin enterprise, the group has shown that with some determination and a lot of hard work, you can change your world.