Vancouver-based developer Townline Homes cleans up its act for a circular economy

In partnership with Rugged Coast Research Society, it removed 7,000 kgs of debris from Vancouver Island.

Bernard Agathe photography of Townline Homes and RCRS clean up project

Credit: Bernard Agathe. Townline Homes and Rugged Coast Research Society cleans up the coastlines of Vancouver Island

In partnership with Rugged Coast Research Society, the developer removed 7,000 kgs of debris from Vancouver Island

The CEO of Vancouver-based developer Townline Homes used to be a regular consumer of products just like anyone else. Then, one day, his son started talking about what he was learning at school, pulling up stories and images on the impact of plastic pollution on our oceans and landfills. 

“I just got fixated on it,” says Richmond native Rick Ilich. “It’s bizarre and shocking that…governments have allowed this to happen. So we just want to do our best not to add to it.”

Through a partnership with Nanaimo-based marine conservation and restoration nonprofit Rugged Coast Research Society (RCRS), Townline Homes has funded the removal of nearly 7,000 kgs of debris from the coastlines of Vancouver Island. Over 80 percent of the waste (which took 12 days to collect) will be recycled and reused locally. 

Bernard Agathe photography of Rugged Coast Research Society and Townline HomesBernard Agathe

“None of this will be shipped away,” Ilich reassures BCBusiness. “What Canada has historically done with their plastics is farm it out to companies overseas. They throw it in boats and ship it over there to be manhandled or mishandled.

“This was a search for what we call a circular economy of plastics, where any plastics that our company, Townline, uses, we’re doing what we can to collect it, sort it, and send it off to recyclers, pelletize it, and then we’re handpicking our partners in extrusion to actually try to use some of this plastic back onto our projects.”

Such projects include incorporating recycled plastics into the making of new benches or children’s play areas.

The 41-year-old company also prioritizes carbon reduction when working with suppliers and partners. In addition to recycling plastics from development sites, Townline’s 200-person staff is dedicated to ensuring that all metal products are recycled, and are setting processes in place to recycle all of its wood products as well. 

Bernard Agathe photography of Rugged Coast Research SocietyBernard Agathe

A collective problem

Given the number of ships that have been losing containers in the Pacific, it’s not surprising that much of the junk on our coastlines are coming from waters across the sea. “We’re picking up products with Japanese labeling on them,” Ilich notes of the debris collected in the project. 

Still, the local contribution to the trash in our oceans is hard to ignore: “The fish farms seem to be contributing to a lot of the styrofoam in that little pickup.”

Even though it’s too late to hit the reset button, the CEO deems it irresponsible to not do your part in helping mitigate the plastic problem. “It’s really an awareness campaign that starts with the schools. It educated me through my kids, I brought it to the office and got on a tangent about reducing our plastic use internally, in our office, and then it expanded onto our sites. 

“Now I’d be aghast if there was a plastic water bottle in our office, or on our site. These aren’t big efforts, but they are efforts.”