Tofino gets a new bottle depot inside a shipping container, a first in B.C.

Residents of Tofino, B.C., have a new way to return their refundable beverage containers — by dropping them off at a shipping container.

The small oceanside district has been without a bottle depot for the past two years after the previous depot shut down. Residents have had to drive their recyclable containers to neighbouring Ucluelet, roughly 40 minutes away.

"It's been a thing of frustration and inconvenience ... [for] residents and businesses in Tofino," said Mayor Josie Osborne. 

"It's just time and money and greenhouse gases that people are spending to move recyclables around." 

In the new model, created in partnership with non-profit Return-It, residents and businesses can drop off their bagged, unsorted beverage containers at the shipping container. They simply put a printable label on their bag, enter a pin code to open the door of the container, and leave their bags inside for pick-up.

Submitted by Return-It

The bags are then picked up by Return-It workers and trucked to a sorting depot. Any refunds are uploaded to an online account.

A first in province

The new system is a first in the province, says Return-It CEO Allen Langdon.

The shipping container model allows bottle depots to be placed in remote communities where a depot would be hard to staff, or in cities where land is at a premium, Langdon said. 

"We knew there would be challenges to start a traditional depot in Tofino just because of the land values and [we were] not sure if we would have the amount of refundables available to make our depot worthwhile under a conventional model," he said.

Submitted by Return-It

Langdon says the shipping container "Express & Go" model can be deployed in other small communities.

"What we're trying to do is find a way to increase the accessibility of our program both in small communities like Tofino as well as larger communities where you know commercial spaces at a premium." 

Langdon says they'll be looking at how things go in the first six months before seeing whether it's worth replicating the model in other places.