A new perspective from my co-op term at Cleanfarms

Author: Andrew Cullar, Cleanfarms 2019 Summer Co-op Student

I’ve been with Cleanfarms for about three months now, working as a ‘Co-op student’ as I pursue a degree in Environment and Business at the University of Waterloo. Over the past few months, I’ve gained valuable insight into the plastics recycling industry and have learned to appreciate the various companies that make it their mission to help our world become more sustainable.

My upbringing consisted of growing up on my grandparent’s retired vegetable farm in rural Ohio. I spent my summers working on various on-farm projects, participating in 4-H, as well as working with other farmers in the community, picking their vegetables. Occasionally I would also spend time helping in the beef operations.

Growing up, sustainability didn’t really cross my mind, not like it does now that my degree focuses on it, and I work for an environmental stewardship company. Equipped with what I’ve learned in these past few years, I frequently reflect on my childhood experiences and see things from a different perspective.

I especially remember taking out the trash to our burn pile every Saturday, and burning a thick black rubber mat along with the rest of the used items. The smoke that it let off was incredible, but I didn’t give a second thought to the environmental impacts at the time.

Years later, I’m questioning the onsite burning practices that were the norm and I’m glad to see that this trend is shifting. There are companies and programs working hard to make alternatives to burning easily accessible and farmers are taking advantage of these programs, bringing containers and other farm products and packaging to sites and collection events for recycling and safe disposal.

I’m looking forward to my remaining time at Cleanfarms, and to seeing how policies unfold as Canada manages today’s recycling challenges and opportunities. As I head back to school for the fall term, I’ll be keeping an eye on the many projects that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of.

Andrew Cullar is a third-year University of Waterloo Environment and Business student and spent his summer 2019 co-op term using his classroom learnings as a Business Assistant at Cleanfarms.