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Interview: Meet a new Rosslander -- the new CEO of KC Recycling

Photo: Pete Stamper

Pete Stamper is the new Chief Executive Officer of KC Recycling, and he moved to Rossland with his family in July of this year.  I learned this after receiving his press release announcing that KC Recycling is making significant investments to expand its capacity and will be able to recycle all of Canada’s cathode-ray-tube (CRT) glass.  His press release declared that “the investments will help us to realize our mission of preserving a sustainable world for future generations — right here in the Kootenays, recycling with integrity and safety.” The investments in production equipment to increase daily throughput include an automated conveyance and storage system.

The expanded production schedule also creates more jobs in our area.

I wasn't clear on how KC Recycling fits into the larger picture, and asked to meet with its new CEO.

First, the person:  Pete Stamper is a skier as well as a CEO, and expressed delight and amazement at the community of Rossland. He likes fact that our bears are valued by so many in the community, he likes the friendliness and the eclectic nature of our populace, the natural surroundings, and the quality of our schools.  His wife is a teacher who would like to work as a substitute here;  their ten-year old son goes to RSS, and their 13-year-old daughter goes to Seven Summits Centre for Learning and is registered with Red Mountain Racers.

Pete drives an electric car – a Chevy Bolt – and wishes he could cover the roof of KC Recycling with solar panels.  It’s a big roof, and he acknowledges that the company uses a lot of power.  

We commiserated about the fact that our society produces so much waste, only some of which can be recycled, and about the prevalence of “planned obsolescence” contributing to the problem of excess waste – especially electronic waste.

Pete appears to be a systems thinker – a person who can analyze processes, identify problems, and work out how to resolve them.  That’s what he’s doing as the new CEO of KC Recycling, to expand its capacity and production and protect worker safety.

What does KC Recycling do?

It’s not part of the “blue box” recycling program.  The company recycles old lead-acid car batteries, electronic scrap, and CRT glass from old television sets.  People can take these items to the bottle depot in Trail.

Pete explained that KC Recycling is the only facility in Canada, and one of only a few in all of North America that recycles CRT glass.  The special thing about CRT glass is that it contains lead. 

What, I asked, becomes of the CRT glass?  He explained that it gets reduced to a fine grit which Teck uses.  He also noted that, with the imminent closure of the Glencore lead smelter in Belledune, New Brunswick, Teck’s Trail smelter will be the only primary smelter in North America. (A primary smelter is one that can process raw ore.)   

Other products reclaimed by the recycling processes include aluminum, copper, steel and plastic; those are all sold.  Of the 90,000 tons of lead produced annually at the Teck smelter, 20,000 tons of the lead come from KC Recycling.

The items processed at KC Recycling contain various hazardous materials, and some readers may recall that the company was issued a well-publicized fine in August, 2019, by WorkSafe BC for failing to protect workers as well as possible from lead dust, cadmium, mercury, and other toxins.  The fine dated from an assessment in 2018, well before Stamper arrived, and he is happy to report that the company had already improved worker protection significantly before the fine was announced.  

KC Recycling handles one-quarter of BC’s electronic scrap.  It’s a big operation.  Electronic scrap contains many different materials; the items get dismantled and the hazardous materials are removed, then the rest is shredded.  Much of the shredded material is plastic that Pete refers to as “bad plastic” – plastic that is not easy, or feasible, to recycle.  Such material was formerly shipped to China for disposal, but China no longer accepts it.

Pete told me that car batteries are “the most recycled product in the world.”  The lead, acid, and plastic in the batteries are separated out, and the lead and acid go to Teck.  As for the plastic from the batteries,  which is among the easy-to-recycle types of plastic, it goes to Merlin Plastics in the Lower Mainland. 

Readers may have seen an article based on a test of three plastics recyclers – Merlin Plastics was the only company of the three tested that recycled the huge test bales of plastic – another company incinerated the plastic to produce energy, and the third company’s load of plastic ended up in landfills.   

KC Recycling is part of our region’s “Metal Tech Alley,” located in the Regional District, in the industrial area down the road from the Trail Airport. It has been in business since 1977,  employs 65 people at present, and all of them are proud of its role in keeping hazardous materials out of landfills, and preventing waste.  “KC does amazing work that few other places do,” Stamper said, and added, “I don’t want to be doing this unless we’re doing it right.”

Stamper stated that BC has high standards for worker safety, and added that KC Recycling tests its employees’ blood lead levels monthly.

For more information about the company, check its website:  http://kc-recycling.com/