Weekend Warrior: Interchange Recycling CEO David Lawes dives into his long history with soccer

The B.C. exec shuffles back-and-forth between recycling oil and managing one of the oldest soccer clubs in Canada

David Lawes’s connection to nature and the outdoors can be traced back to his childhood years in Sidney: he loved riding his bike down Beacon Avenue to catch crabs on the dock and spending frigid Saturday mornings playing soccer outside.

That same interest has influenced his career, too: prior to taking over as CEO of Victoria-based Interchange Recycling (formerly the BC Used Oil Management Association) in 2014, Lawes oversaw recycling and waste management programs at the provincial Ministry of Environment (this was before the ministry added “climate change strategy” to its name). And even before that, one of the first jobs he ever had was working as a fisheries consultant looking at sockeye salmon in remote lakes in B.C.

“I’ve done a lot of fieldwork in the environment,” says Lawes, “and now I’ve really beefed up the business side and got some education around it. I just think it’s so important for everybody to understand this interface between business and  environment.”

Lawes holds a technical diploma in fisheries and aquaculture from Vancouver Island University (1996) and a bachelor’s degree in environmental management from Royal Roads University (1999). He stayed active in the Island’s soccer community throughout his academic years, first as a part of VIU’s college team and later through various leagues and clubs. He found himself on the administrative side a few years ago when he joined the board of the Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL).

“I’ve been playing for probably close to 50 years,” he says. “Which is kind of crazy, when you think about it.”

Interchange Recycling CEO and Vic West Soccer president David Lawes

In 2020, Lawes became president of one of the oldest soccer clubs in Canada: Victoria West FC. Established in 1896, the adult club (which currently encompasses 11 individual teams with player age sets ranging from 18 to 60+) has won national championships and has been recognized by both the B.C. Soccer Hall of Fame and the Canada Soccer Hall of Fame.

But Lawes couldn’t help but notice it was heading in the wrong direction: “We were getting smaller with fewer teams, and finances were a challenge, so [a group of us] volunteered our time and stepped in to really turn it around. And that’s been nice and fulfilling.”

As president, Lawes handles all the administrative requirements of Vic West and its teams, from decking out the clubhouse with memorabilia to ensuring that the bills get paid, the maintenance gets done and the fields get booked. In 2023, the club won the regional Jackson Cup for the first time in 34 years, in a dramatic match that ended with penalties. “It was a big celebration for all the alumni and a lot of fun to be part of,” Lawes recalls.

He also plays with Vic West H2X (the club’s over-49 team) as a forward: “My teammates joke that there’s no position they can say I play because I like to play them all.”

Interchange Recycling CEO and Vic West Soccer president David Lawes

Office duties can get in the way of passion, as Lawes often travels for work. But he still tries to show up to every match and insists that it’s an exciting time to be CEO: Interchange is evolving and helping more and more manufacturers, retailers and businesses collect and recycle used oil, antifreeze, filters and automotive containers.

“We are expanding beyond the current products,” Lawes adds—that means being able to recycle different types of containers and figuring out how to give other automotive parts (like tires and car batteries) a second life. “We’re also expanding beyond B.C. and into other jurisdictions. This year, we hope to get started in the Yukon and we’re also working with  the U.S.”

With big shifts and moving parts in the business, time on the field feels more necessary than ever. “I talk about this with my soccer friends and none of them want to let it go because once you stop playing, you’ll never get back,” says Lawes. “There’s a little bit of fitness involved, but there’s a whole lot of social. I would call it mental health support, too. You’re busy in your work and day jobs and the soccer field can be our fun outlet to burn off some energy and have some laughs.”

Warrior Spotlight

Victoria-based Interchange Recycling recycles used oil, antifreeze and other automotive products. The not-for-profit celebrated 20 years in business in 2023 and changed its name from the BC Used Oil Management Association to mark a change in the organization’s history: it is now aiming to recycle every fluid container you’d see in an automotive store, says CEO David Lawes, and is growing its services to keep up with evolving automobiles. “The electrification of the fleet is going to mean that our members like Honda are going to need different services in the future than they need today.”