Victoria’s Interchange Recycling hits 20 years with new name, advanced scope

CEO David Lawes explains how the company has become one of North America’s leaders in recycling oil

David Lawes knows that it’s not always easy to walk the line between the environment and business.

The Victoria resident studied both business and environmental science at Royal Roads University and spent almost a decade at the provincial Ministry of Environment managing recycling programs in B.C. Ten years ago, he became CEO of what was then called the BC Used Oil Management Association. “I always wanted to be in the business environment interface, I just found it so interesting growing up,” says Lawes. “Those two things are pitted against each other most times, but there’s also some businesses doing environmental good.”

Lawes believes that Interchange Recycling (the new name for the BC Used Oil Management Association) falls under that umbrella. Every year, the company recycles about 50 million litres of oil, 6 million oil filters, 3 million litres of antifreeze and 1.7 million kilograms of plastic containers. The oil can be re-refined into new lubricating oil while the filters are recycled into metal products like nails and wire and the containers are used to manufacture new products.

“More oil gets recycled into new lubricating oil in B.C. than almost anywhere else in the world,” says Lawes. “It’s a great environmental story. Many people don’t even know they’re recycling their oil. When you take your vehicle in for a service at Jiffy Lube or anywhere else, you’re doing a good environmental thing by having a professional take it out of your car, because not only does it go to the public depos, it comes out really clean and we turn it back to lubricating oil quickly.”

For what Lawes calls the “few people in the province that continue to change their own oil,” Interchange has a network of 300 collection sites around the province and a goal for every BCer to have a 15-minute drive to take back used oil and filters.

The name change, announced in July of this year, was meant to refresh the brand as well as open it up to possible expansion. “We had the same name for 20 years, it was time to refresh,” says Lawes. “It also allows us to add more products to our system without having to change our name and work in other jurisdictions outside B.C. We go where our members want us to go.”

On the product side, Lawes is looking toward anything to do with the automobile that’s regulated: “Additives, containers, windshield washers, all those other categories beyond oil and antifreeze.”

The biggest challenge, says Lawes, has been keeping up with BCers love of recycling. “Responding to that has been a massive challenge,” he says. “They want to recycle more and more stuff. To do that, we need to make our service more and more convenient to them, so keeping up with the pace the public wants has been challenging.”