Indigenous-owned Winnipeg recycling company helping the environment and the community

A bailer packages waste that's sent to the landfill, which only consists of five per cent of the mattress. Tristan Field-Jones / Global News

Mother Earth Recycling started as a place for disadvantaged teens, single parents and former convicts in Winnipeg to get back in the workforce. Now, it’s branching out in new directions.

It’s located in a modest, white warehouse overlooking Main Street – the first building you see when entering the North End through the underpass.

Tucked away next to the rail lines that bisect the city’s core, you might assume this is just another industrial depot in an area full of them. But Mother Earth Recycling is doing a lot of good for the environment, the Indigenous community and the surrounding neighbourhood.

The Indigenous owned and operated social enterprise began in 2012 as a place for people to find job opportunities while providing an electronic waste recycling service.

READ MORE: Are you contaminating Winnipeg’s recycling without knowing?

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“We summarize as any electronics that you can plug in or runs on batteries,” general manager Jessica Floresco told 680 CJOB. “We also take lightbulbs and batteries.”

The company is now branching out to other services like refurbishing computers and selling them back to the community at a low price. Thanks to an IT team on-site, it can also destroy sensitive data by crushing or shredding hard drives.

Recently, Mother Earth Recycling has been accepting mattresses and boxsprings. They are taken apart and 95 per cent of their components are recycled.

It’s more than just a success story for the environment, however.

Floresco said the company hires people with criminal records, addiction problems or any barrier that keeps them from getting a full-time job elsewhere. Employment with Mother Earth Recycling lasts six months and gives workers a number of marketable skills.

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“They get budget training, personal finance, CPR, first aid, food handlers [and] forklift training,” said Floresco. “Anything we can fit in.”

Floresco said she’s seen first-hand how the work experience can change a person’s outlook, with one success story coming from a woman with a criminal record who came to the company after a detox program.

“She was depressed and angry,” said Floresco. “First few months it was her hood up all the time, didn’t want to talk to anybody and when help was offered to her, she didn’t want to take it.

“She was phenomenal. She was such a hard worker. It just took getting past that phase of knowing we’re here and we’re not giving up on people.”

Floresco said the young woman ended up with her dream job as an outreach worker, helping women on the street.

READ MORE: Winnipeggers try to ‘recycle’ 5,500 used, dirty diapers every week

Piles of old mattresses waiting to be stripped down. Tristan Field-Jones / Global News

Winnipegger Chris Guimond is another person who experienced the positive impact of working with Mother Earth Recycling.

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“I was only making 150 bucks a week. It was not much to take care of kids,” said Guimond.

“I was actually an alcoholic at one time. I was struggling through life a lot. I didn’t know who I was.”

Guimond said he lost his father to alcohol abuse and he noticed he was going through the same steps. Then, his partner announced she was pregnant and that’s when everything changed.

“After I had my son, I looked at him and said, hey, I want to change for him and give him a better life than what I went through,” he said.

“I want him to have healthy relationships when he’s growing up. So he changed my life… I woke up. The light turned on. You’re getting older, it’s time to smarten up. Every day I go home, he’s always waiting for me and he smiles every time he sees me.”

An industrial shredder can take up to 200 hard drives and break them into tiny pieces, which are recycled. Tristan Field-Jones / Global News

Guimond said it was rough going when he first started at the recycling plant, but he’s happy Mother Earth Recycling was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

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“[There] were a lot of times that I didn’t show up or didn’t call in,” he said.

“I looked at that and said, ‘Wow… Jessica gave me all these chances and I’m still here.’ So I can’t do that to her no more — I have to be here for her. So I thank her for doing this for me and my little family.”

Guimond has been working full-time for over a year and he now trains new employees, some of whom have turned into lifelong friends.

“My crew is awesome. I love my crew. They’re really hard workers. We play around a lot but we still get the work done.”​

Watch for the second part of this story on Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Push to recycle electronics' Push to recycle electronics
Push to recycle electronics – Oct 8, 2019

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