When she’s not working in the kitchen or taking care of patients at 100 Mile District General Hospital, Barb Matfin is gathering the recycling.
Matfin, along with co-workers Cory Greaves and Sally Neale, are members of the hospital’s “Green Team” – a group they formed 17 years ago when there was no recycling program in place. It all started, Matfin said, when Greaves was working in the transport department, moving big bins of garbage around.
“She noticed that all the cardboard was going right into the dumpster and she was appalled,” said Matfin, a hospital care-aide and cook. “She talked to her supervisor about it and Interior Health organized a dedicated dumpster for cardboard.”
After that, Greaves and Matfin decided they needed to find a way to prevent so much from being thrown away. After much persistence, Interior Health approved their Green Team, which was modeled on others already operating in some of the larger hospitals. Although the numbers fluctuate, presently five hospital employees regularly volunteer their time to the recycling program.
“In these uncertain times with climate change, COVID and the fires putting stress on everyone locally, the workers at the health facility can at least know they’re contributing to a better world each time they choose to recycle an item instead of trashing it,” Matfin said. “Individual actions may be small, but if everyone does it, small becomes big.”
The team began small by recycling Tim Horton’s coffee cops. They then started educating staff about the various materials that could be recycled from their departments. Although many people at first were “too busy to recycle,” the program eventually caught on. At one point the team didn’t have enough blue recycling bins to go around, so they cut off the tops of old laundry soap drums and used them instead.
“We were really trying to make it easy for everybody to recycle,” Matfin said.
The big break came when the South Cariboo Health Foundation provided the group with a $5,000 grant to purchase blue bins to place around the hospital. Around the same time, Interior Health purchased a garden shed for the Green Team to use to store the recycling, which is picked up by Gold Trail Recycling once a week.
Previously, Matfin said they had to borrow the IH maintenance truck and drive the recycling down to the 70 Mile Transfer Station. They usually collect about $50 a month from recycling jugs and juice boxes, which goes toward buying more blue bins. Today, the team has five large recycling stations, seven large bins outside the main sorting area by the kitchen, 30 medium blue bins around the facility, 40 tiny blue bins for offices and two additional large bins on wheels for unsorted and sorted bags.
Today, the hospital’s garbage dumpster is emptied two to three times a week. Matfin estimates that the team has redirected 95 percent of hospital cardboard from the landfill as well as a dumpster’s worth of paper, tin, glass, plastic containers, drinking containers, styrofoam and batteries every week.
Any staff member interested in signing up to help can visit her in the hospital kitchen where she works five days a week or email her at email@example.com.