KAMLOOPS — It's a program that provides employment and is good for the environment.
The ASK Wellness mattress recycling program collects as many as 1,000 mattresses a month from both the City of Kamloops and TNRD landfills, and then breaks them down for recycling. It launched 15 months ago and is still going strong.
"It started really with our desire to have opportunities for people that we've worked with, whether they've been homeless, whether they're struggling with health issues, or maybe just hadn't been involved in the workforce," said ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes.
Hughes noted the program is net neutral, enough money to pay the employees and keep the operation going.
The mattresses are picked up at the landfill by the employees, taken back to the facility where the recycled material separated and then sold to local companies.
"We wanted to do something that would create opportunities for employment, but also be something that would be environmentally sustainable and contribute to the overall well-being of the community," Hughes said.
Robert Wilkinson has worked at the facility for six months and loves the work. Wilkinson came to the job after being homeless for two years --- time that included sleeping under the overlanders bridge.
"It was very tough at times," said Wilkinson, who grew up in Williams Lake and moved to Kamloops after struggling to land stable employment. "Very complicated when it comes to some people giving you a hard time just because you look like you're homeless, and you can't get clean because you don't have amenities."
But since working with ASK Wellness, Wilkinson is in transitional housing.
"Getting a paycheque is great, especially not having one most of your life," he said. "Getting to this job has been an absolute happy, positive for me. I've been very happy about saving a bunch of crap from going to the dump."
Aaron Race has been working here for five months. He was without work for months and says without this employment he would've ended up like Wilkinson.
"I'd probably be homeless underneath the bridge," he said.
Most of the mattress is salvaged. The springs are sold are scrap metal and the leftover wood is broken down and turned into pallets, thanks to innovation by the employees.
"There's ingenuity that's been shown in the work they've done," said Hughes. "It's a remarkable achievement."
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