Susan Lee of Ucluelet’s Blackberry Cove Marketplace is thrilled to be a drop off point for a new recycling program that has locals handing in their used-up plastic writing utensils rather than simply throwing them in the trash. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Susan Lee of Ucluelet’s Blackberry Cove Marketplace is thrilled to be a drop off point for a new recycling program that has locals handing in their used-up plastic writing utensils rather than simply throwing them in the trash. (Photo - Andrew Bailey)

Surfrider brings pen recycling program to Tofino and Ucluelet

“Once their content has been used up, they are fated for landfill or waterways.”

Straws and plastic bags have some new company in the crosshairs of local ocean lovers as pens, highlighters, markers and all their caps are now also being targeted by the Surfrider Foundation’s Pacific Rim Chapter.

Vancouver-based recycling company Terracycle has launched a new program aimed at recycling plastic writing utensils that are often simply discarded when they run out of ink. Surfrider has brought the initiative to the West Coast thanks to partnerships with Tofino’s Ultramarine Art Supply and Ucluelet’s Blackberry Cove Marketplace, which will serve as drop-off locations for locals to bring their writing utensils to.

Surfrider’s local chapter manager Lilly Woodbury said that, while writing utensils are not as pervasive as other more commonly found beach-debris items like coffee cups or takeout containers, they are a single-use plastic worth tackling.

“Many of these utensils, mostly markers and highlighters, cannot be refilled. Once their content has been used up, they are fated for landfill or waterways,” she said. “This is yet another step on the path to divert more waste from landfill, and to eliminate the need to extract raw resources for plastic production.”

“Imagine in one year in Canada how many tons of plastic will be recycled from writing utensils alone.”

Andre McGillivray, the co-owner of Ultramarine Art Supply said signing up to help propel the effort locally was a “no brainer.”

“We deeply care about living life with as small a footprint as we can possibly execute and anything we can do to improve that is a great idea,” he said adding he and many other locals have likely thrown old pens away without thinking of the impact.

“It’s a one-time plastic thing. We forget how much that adds up…If we can avoid that moving forward, then that would be incredible.”

He added it’s important for local businesses to get onboard and support Surfrider’s ongoing environmental efforts.

“Surfrider has cleaned up the beach hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times and will continue to do so,” he said. “Even after this major storm here, we’re all seeing the result of our neglect with the microplastics that have washed up…We’ll be cleaning these things up forever and Surfrider propels us and reminds us to be diligent, disciplined and continue.”

When Blackberry Cove’s owner Susan Lee heard about Ultramarine’s efforts in Tofino, she immediately reached out to Surfrider and offered her marketplace as a venue for Uclueletians to drop off their old plastic writing utensils.

“I wanted to participate because we’re doing as much as we can on our end to try to run a business with as low an environmental impact as possible and to live up to my values of environmentalism and a very big part of those is reducing the use of plastic and also making sure that plastic stays out of the stream where it eventually ends up in our oceans,” she said.

“It’s just a small little step but it’s raising awareness and when you add up all the pens that would end up going into landfills or into the ocean, it’s actually a big deal.”

She added she believes the program will be successful.

“I know there’s people in Ukee, because they come into my store everyday, that have the same values and so I thought this was a simple thing that I could do,” she said. “I’m sure there’s a ton of other really good little ideas out there and maybe this will stimulate some other ideas of small easy steps that will make a difference when it’s all accumulated.”

Woodbury was thrilled to see McGillivray and Lee take hold of the initiative and said it’s important for local businesses to take ownership of their surroundings and practice good stewardship.

“Now more than ever, we all have a responsibility to get involved in lowering the amount of plastic used and plastic waste generated,” she said. “Businesses are included in this, and have a great opportunity to be the example in terms of eliminating single use plastics because they interact with so many people on any given day.”

She added businesses can influence their customers’ behaviours, especially in the West Coast’s tourism economy.

“Think of all of the businesses in the Pacific Rim that have eliminated plastic straws, people all over the world who have interacted with these businesses have been part of this operational change and have gained insight on why plastic straws are not used,” she said. “As a community with an exceptional amount of visitors, it is extremely important for the business community to lower the amount of plastic pollution, and for businesses to consider other environmental policies regarding resource use and waste.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Theatre manager Sophie L’Homme is ecstatic to share the news that Tofino’s aging Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre is finally getting upgrades. (Nora O’Malley photo)
BC Arts grant funding breathes new life into Tofino’s community theatre

“Once it’s done, it’s going to be a pride of the town.”

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The District of Ucluelet is fast-tracking temporary use permits for RVs/campervans as seasonal housing. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet launches seasonal worker housing pilot project

New program aims to match landowners with staff who need spots for the summer

A discarded blue surgical mask is shown hanging in a bush Dec. 6, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ucluelet woman apologizes after comparing B.C. mask mandate to residential schools

First Nations Chief Moses Martin, a survivor said ‘I’ll put a mask on any day instead of the experience that I had’

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

The 10-part Netflix series Maid, which is being exclusively shot in Greater Victoria, was filming near Prospect Lake in Saanich last month. (Photo courtesy Fred Haynes)
Province announces $150,000 towards South Island film studio, fulfilling B.C. NDP promise

Investment to fund movie studio feasibility study at Camosun College

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Most Read