Derek Gasper leans back in his office chair, smiles and remembers back to two years ago, when he was looking for a change in his career. Lured by a “fantastic” starting wage and the opportunity to explore a new field, Derek answered an ad for a position at Recycle Plus. Despite that the fact that he would be surprised if "all the stars are aligned in five days out of the year," it is clear that he loves his job as Manager of the Fibre and Container divisions at the recycling depot.
Derek graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in Kinesiology and a minor in Commerce. He gained management experience through a position with Sears Canada before he came to the Association.
The progression from a basic understanding of recycling to the ability to manage the Recycle Plus plant involved a huge learning curve on Derek’s part. He describes the work as “a fun job, with the good far out weighing the bad.” One of the biggest challenges is staffing. Attracting and retaining good staff becomes more and more difficult in Grande Prairie’s booming economy.
During Derek’s first summer with Recycle Plus, equipment breakdowns and staff shortages led to a couple weeks of working twelve hour days, until the problems were sorted out and everything could get back on track.
The system was further taxed when the time came to replace the existing baler with a newer one. The anticipated three to four week installation period stretched to eight or nine weeks. The same amount of product was still coming into the plant but there was no ability to produce. Once again, the problem was solved and Recycle Plus was able to resume normal operations.
In Dereks’s opinion there have been far more highlights than lowlights; the lowlights are just so extreme.
There is absolutely nothing now, short of a cataclysmic disaster, that would be able to stop us. If we can get through those times, there’s nothing we won’t be able to do.
Derek notes that Recycle Plus has been getting busier every year since he started. Community awareness has increased and there are now incentives for businesses to recycle as well. The recycling program operates in 59 communities throughout the province and the existing bottle depot goes through approximately a million containers every four or five days. “It is not an easy job by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a lot of repetitive work.”
In general it has just gotten busier. In my time here so far, we have had to purchase another baler and a whole new set of equipment to deal with the oncoming product, to the point where we’re now recycling in 59 communities. In the city of Grande Prairie we have an office paper program that is expanding every day. More bin sites are going out into the city itself. The whole thing is growing huge amounts. The bottle depot has grown so much that we need a second one and it can’t get here fast enough.
Derek says that working with the disabled is a great experience. His door is always open in the mornings and he says that, without fail, one or more of the clients will drop in to say hello, share a story and have a laugh.
They get me laughing pretty hard some days. And their contribution, depending on what they’re doing…they’re like anybody, they have good days and bad days. Some days they don’t feel like doing anything, and some days they work until they drop.
A shared sense of humour takes the edge off of the day sometimes. “Nobody stops recycling just because a truck breaks down.” Having a laugh with the clients somehow puts it into perspective.