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Nanaimo Recycling Exchange Society is a non-profit organization regulated by the Societies Act, and a registered charity regulated by Canada Revenue Agency. The Society includes a Board of Directors, an Executive Director, and staff as needed for operations.


Until 2018, the society operated a Recycling Depot that provided recycling, reuse, education, and outreach services for the community. Since 2018, the society has re-defined purpose and priority to restore conservation principles of the founders. 

Brief History

The NRE, as it was usually called, has deep roots in the Nanaimo area. Earliest attempts to start recycling in Nanaimo were documented in the 1970’s. Sponsorships from groups such as the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation and Western Canada Wilderness Committee, and core funding from local, provincial, and federal governments of the day ensured stability for NRE recycling and education programs.


An early trailblazer for recycling, the NRE provided the community with alternatives to disposal, and was instrumental in developing markets for “hard to recycle” items. The NRE formed community partnerships: the 3R’s education program, gardening and food sharing initiatives, and the employment program for people with barriers were long-standing programs.


The NRE recycling depot moved a number of times. The last location on Kenworth Road operated from 2006 until 2018. The comprehensive Zero Waste model included education, a reuse market, and a convenient one-stop-drop recycling program that grew steadily in popularity until closure in 2018.


In early years, recycling was profitable. From 2009, global recycling markets declined and profits dwindled while demand for recycling increased. As costs for garbage disposal remained consistently low, recycling became a costly choice of conscience. As private recyclers backed away from high cost recycling programs, the NRE pulled out all stops to preserve recycling for the community.

What happened to Recycling?

The NRE commitment to recycling was expensive, and came at a cost to other NRE projects and programs. Eventually, doing the right thing for the community became untenable.


As the RDN is one of the only regional districts in BC without a regional or municipal recycling depot, the NRE and the City of Nanaimo had a long-standing partnership for services. At one time, the City of Nanaimo had proposed building a recycling depot for the NRE to operate. Such a partnership was not simple to implement, it was explored with many visions, over many years. As city staff and councils changed, the concept was eventually rejected.


By 2018, all attempts by the NRE to collaboratively construct and operate a zero waste depot with the City of Nanaimo or the Regional District and the City of Nanaimo had been rejected. The Kenworth Road depot lease expired, and there was no option but to close the recycling depot.


Closing those broken and rickety NRE gates for the last time signified the end of an era, but not the end of the NRE.

Looking Forward

The NRE was always officially named Nanaimo Recycling Exchange Society (NRES). The Society has a mandate to operate directly from the Constitution and Guiding Principles.


1. The name of the Society is the Nanaimo Recycling Exchange Society


2. The purposes of the Society are:

a. To reduce the amount of waste produced in the Regional District of Nanaimo;

b. To promote and achieve a conserver society, and in support thereof, promote and encourage responsibility to reduce,  reuse and recycle amongst the private sector, public sector, and non-profit sector;

c. To encourage and promote sharing of information, planning, resources and decision making amongst and between the  private sector, public sector, and non-profit sector in order to achieve a conserver society;

d. To actively seek out new opportunities for sustainable use of resources;
e. To provide working models of community reuse and recycling practices;

f. To provide an information exchange for conservation practices.

Guiding Principles - Zero Waste is Key
  • Uphold the Zero International Waste Alliance Pollution Prevention Hierarchy,

  • Uphold the Zero Waste International Alliance definition of Zero Waste,

  • Educate with fact-based communication,

  • Network and collaborate with Zero Waste partners,

  • Lobby for change using Zero Waste principles,

  • Model Zero Waste practices.


The NRES Constitution set priorities in 1992 that guide our work today.


We perform contract work in communities to reduce waste and provide education, and we perform self-funded research, lobbying, and networking that helps all communities.


Contract work is mainly focussed on helping businesses and Regional Districts reduce waste and achieve regional targets. We perform waste assessments and develop customized plans for specific businesses, with instructions and links to solutions. We connect businesses with the correct services, find or pilot new solutions, and provide specific education as needed. We also provide consultant services and training for recycling depots.


Because it’s common to treat waste as an after-thought, we help businesses plan ahead: avoiding or reducing waste can lower costs, save time, and improve chances of recycling or reuse. Following a business plan to reduce waste leads to the green marketing plan that attracts attention in today’s marketplace.


We are experts in waste reduction, but it’s not enough to reduce waste while we increase production and consumption. For this reason, NRES self-funded work prioritizes Reduce and Reuse.


We have unique history and experience to provide important insight and feedback to government, industry, and community programs and policy. Fact-based research provides the basis for NRES education, networking, and lobbying for a sustainable future. Some self-funded work includes

  • participating with global planning associations to accelerate development of a clean economy and transition to a circular economy,

  • monitoring performance and regulations for BC recycling programs,

  • lobbying for new government policy and programs,

  • reviewing reports and research; provide online learning resources for the public,

  • evaluating circular solutions by industry sector; educating sector organizations,

  • providing targeted education for businesses and organizations,

  • monitoring industry lobbying that influences government policy,

  • researching and promoting new Reduce, Reuse, and Recycling technology,

  • providing the voice of sustainability for all communities.


In absence of a local, regional, or global objective to reduce production and consumption, or to educate about the necessity to reduce production and consumption, the NRES promotes the message. We are not always invited where we go in our efforts to engage all sectors with the message to reduce.


We promote the message which may, as the trim tab on the rudder, ease the turn toward the Conserver Society.

Can the NRES re-open a recycling depot?

Without sufficient funding, a non-profit society such as the NRES cannot shoulder costs of the comprehensive one-stop zero-waste recycling depot, especially if the non-profit has absolute responsibility for recycling products that don’t generate revenue.


The Regional District of Nanaimo is one of the few, if not the only, regional district in BC without a government funded recycling depot. Private sector recyclers abandon programs with low or no profit. The NRES can no longer fill this gap.



Real action requires real truth:

The NRES dedicated 2019 to research and fact-checking the truth about recycling, waste management, reuse, repair, the circular economy, plastics and packaging, and government initiatives. This research uncovered potential game-changing solutions, and on-going practices that continue to make matters worse.

Read about the 'Truth in 10'

These investigations consistently revealed truths that led to one path forward for the NRES. The way forward is to remember the grass-roots community that first formed the NRE to achieve a “conserver society.” It’s a very Canadian story.


In 1973, the Science Council of Canada recommended that Canadians change their way of life and “begin the transition from a consumer society preoccupied with resource exploitation to a conserver society engaged in more constructive endeavours."


The Science Council suggested:

  • that many environmental problems are symptoms of the larger problems of a society dedicated to turning resources into garbage as fast as possible in the interests of short-term economic growth.

  • most environmental problems cannot be resolved until the basic causes are corrected.

  • that Canadians had dithered too long, particularly when we possess the technical and scientific knowledge to foresee the consequences of our actions.

It’s hard to imagine governments of today funding Crown corporations to advise on environmental policy. It’s hard to imagine industry choosing conservation over profit.


We can choose


The NRES Board of Directors believes wholeheartedly that promoting the Conserver Society is the way forward. Whether we educate, lobby, or help a business reduce waste, the NRES will be in the community working for you and with you for the environment.

Read more about the Conserver Society



Board Chair

Rob Campbell


Monica Quirt, Tai Adler, Fabio Scaldaferri

Executive Director

Jan Hastings


Consultants to the Board of Directors represent  various professional and community organizations. 


Contact the Board 

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