Smile of St.Malo Inc / EPIC Smile, is open for business with help from the RM of De Salaberry.

Reeve, Darrel Cure says late last fall they were faced with some challenges, “And we're pleased to announce today that De Salaberry will continue to use EPIC Smile as their processing depot for recycling in the RM.”

Cure says EPIC Smile's services haven’t changed. “We did not see any interruptions. In a nutshell, what had transpired was EPIC has seen some challenges in the markets, where the markets (for recyclable products) have turned down, which meant that they could no longer sell their goods for a profit. It was actually costing them money to ship out material. So, the feasibility of their business had taken a turn for the worse. The RM and EPIC came to terms, restructured a few things, and we were capable of getting EPIC to agree to continue rendering processing services.”

Cure adds he wants to assure residents of the RM that EPIC Smile will continue to be the location they send their recycling. “We were five municipalities using the service from EPIC, and a couple of them went different routes when they (EPIC) sent out their notification (in fall). And we just wanted to make our residents aware that we managed to come to a solution with them (EPIC) and that we're going to keep on using their services.”

Cure explains that over the past few years, the market for plastic and paper products went down. “Their business actually became non-viable, and they were going backwards. So, they had rendered their notice to the RM’s that they could no longer provide their service the way they were doing business. But it was simply just a simple restructuring, which was the RM of De Salaberry took on the collection part of it. So, we (the RM) hired a collection company. And they (EPIC) will remain a facility that will do the processing of the recycling. So, I think at the end this worked out fantastic, and we're proud to continue to use EPIC as a processor.”

Cure says, the RM was paying EPIC directly, who then was also hiring the trucking company that needed to collect the recycled items, as well as doing the sorting and processing of the products. "But with this change, the RM took on the tendering of the collection company. And then we've also made an agreement to stay on with them (EPIC) as a processor. So, it just takes off a little bit of their mandate in terms of rendering this service.”

Going forward, the RM of De Salaberry will be taking care of tendering the trucking company who will be picking up the recyclable products and EPIC Smile will take care of sorting and packing up the recyclable products.

Cure says they compared pricing to have their recycling shipped outside of the Municipality. “But to keep it here, locally, made way more sense to us. We have substantial savings just in transportation rather than sending vehicles to Winnipeg to the recycling depot.”

He notes the benefit for their residents to keep the recycling local. “For us, it's being local, and it also gives the participants at EPIC Smile an opportunity to work, and the RM truly valued that aspect of it. We also like the fact that this employs a lot of people in our community.”

EPIC Smile St Malo recycling facilityEPIC Smile St Malo recycling facility (Photo credit: EPIC Smile)

 Meanwhile, Jackie Prowse, the General Manager of EPIC Smile in St. Malo, tells us more about their business and who they employ.

“So, at EPIC Smile we support adults with intellectual disabilities. We have a day program, and we also have a residential program where adults with disabilities come to us Monday to Friday. It's like a sheltered workshop, where they come to learn life-skills and do some meaningful work.”

Prowse says they started the recycling program quite a few years ago. “We were picking up recycling in different communities, and we would bring it back here (EPIC) and we would process it and bail it and we would sell it to different purchasers.” 

Prowse says they changed the way they pick up recyclable products about two years ago. "So, we used to pick it up ourselves. Then about two years ago, we got out of the picking-up part of our business, and we hired somebody to do it for us. We were trying to keep up with keeping the trucks running, and the mileage, and the fuel, it was just getting to be too much for us being a non-profit, and the market for the recyclable products dropping to an all-time low.”

“So, until that came back up something needed to change. Plus, we weren't making ends meet. So, we decided to hire somebody else to pick it up for us, which was GNR trucking.”

Then in fall 2023, they sent out a notice saying that they needed to open up the contracts to pick up the recyclable products. “So, then the RM stepped in with us, and we had some discussions with all of them. The last talk that we had was that we were letting them know that we would no longer be picking up recyclables, and that we were putting it into their hands to tender it out and find somebody else to pick up the recycling for them, but that we would still remain a drop off and a processing plant.”

Prowse says the expectation from EPIC was that the RM’s would still use their facility as a recycling depot, and in turn they would now hire somebody to do the pickups.

She says the RM’s have access to a provincial MMSM program or the Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba program, to request for funding for a recycling program like EPIC, which would eliminate their cost of having to pick up anymore.  

Prowse clarifies a misunderstanding about recycling being brought to the landfill. She says that GNR trucks will go the landfill with their recyclable products, but to get the trucks weighed.

“We always had to have a scale ticket because MMSM requires this to have our recycling program, so they always go to the landfill site to scale, and then they would bring us the product. There was no way that we were dumping any recycling at the landfill.” She adds, “The only time anything gets dumped at the landfill is if it's garbage or if it's contaminated recyclables, then those end up being garbage. So that's the only time that it goes to the landfill.”

Having the support of the RM of De Salaberry means a lot to Prowse. “It means a great deal to us, and it's going to help us to keep running in the long run. The RM of De Salaberry, the RM of Piney, and Stuartburn and Buffalo Point, also the RM of Montcalm, they're all bringing their recycling to us, no matter who they're using (to pick up the recycling). Their trucks are bringing the recycling to us. Bristol Hauling is also bringing us five trucks.”

“We like Bristal Hauling. They've been very open with us. They would love to bring all their stuff here. It's just that, not all of their trucks will fit in our facility right now, you know, to be able to empty, but otherwise they would be bringing their trucks to us from wherever they're picking up.” 

Prowse says, they made changes because they want to keep serving the communities in this way. They want to keep their current staff employed.

“It's not because the municipality or anyone did anything, it's just that we needed to eliminate some of our costs and put it back on the RM’s to run a recycling program, and we're still here to take all their material. So, we're keeping par with the Winnipeg facilities for product drop off, you know and yeah, that's the best that we can do.” 

Prowse continues, “It's awesome to have that kind of support from our RM’s, especially knowing that we are nonprofit, and one of the biggest employers in our RM and in the surrounding communities.” She says they employee between 70 to 80 individuals in their day program and residential program, with all staff hired locally.

“So, knowing that the communities are supporting us is huge, without that we wouldn't be able to do what we're doing.”

Photos in the gallery below were taken by EPIC Smile staff and show the recycling facility in St. Malo.