A trashy Squamish story

Squamish-founded RecycleSmart Ranks No. 25 on the 2019 annual list of top 500 fastest-growing Canadian Companies

RecycleSmart, a company that began in Squamish as a project off the side of Jaclyn McPhadden's desk, was this month ranked number 25 on the 2019 Growth 500 Canadian Business annual list of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

RecycleSmart supplies waste diversion, organic capture and recycling management services to businesses.

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Digging deeper into the rankings, RecycleSmart was the top industrial services company and the fourth fastest-growing company in Metro Vancouver.

The Growth 500 ranks Canadian businesses on five-year revenue growth.

Like many Squamish newcomer stories, this one begins with the 2010 Winter Olympics, held in Vancouver and Whistler.

McPhadden and her husband Colin Bell came to Squamish in 2007 for his job at Whistler Olympic Park in the lead up to the Olympics.

The pair also loved the outdoor activities, such as mountain biking and skiing, so Squamish was a natural fit, she said.

"Not long after is when we started to plant the seed of what RecycleSmart is now," she recalled.

The idea though had been ruminating for a while.

McPhadden had previously worked in a hotel in Victoria and been aghast at the amount of waste generated. When she started to research what the hotel could do to divert and recycle the waste, she hit dead ends.

"Radio silence," she said. That made her think other businesses must be in the same boat.

Fast forward a few years and she was commuting to Vancouver for her job at the Vancouver Aquarium and started the recycling-consultancy company as a side job.

"A lot of our first clients were in the corridor," she said.

In the fall of 2008, she quit her job to pursue RecycleSmart full time.

As the business's opportunities were increasingly in the city, the pair left Squamish and moved to Vancouver after the Olympics, in the spring of 2010.

And she hasn't looked back since.

"In Squamish, we never thought that this would evolve to where it is today," she said. At first, it was just her and Bell. Currently they employ 50 people with clients and offices across the country.

“RecycleSmart is honoured to be recognized on the Growth 500 list, ranking in the top 30 for the third year in a row,” said McPhadden. “This award and the company’s ongoing growth is a testament to our team’s hard work and dedication. And, it demonstrates that RecycleSmart is filling a crucial gap in the waste management industry— providing an innovative technology solution that reduces waste, increases recycling content and saves our clients valuable time and money.”

The technology that has helped the company expand is its sensors.

"We use wireless sensors that... are mounted inside our waste and recycling containers and it acts like a cell phone and sends data to our office. We get data multiple times a day from waste and recycling bins that our customers have across Canada."

That data is used to make pickups more efficient.

"The way the industry works normally is that bin pickups are over-scheduled," she said. "We try to use the sensors to optimize the pickup schedule. So, on average, most bins get picked up even though they are only 60 per cent full and we raise that to at least 80 or 85 per cent efficiency."

This means fewer trucks on the road and cost savings for customers.

The sensor-units also have cameras in them that show what is going in the bins. This allows businesses to cut down on contamination because they can see what is going into the bins.

The company has thousands of bins across Canada.

Looking forward, McPhadden would like to see the technology use expand and evolve. She is also thinking of how the data can be even more useful.

"As we grow, more and more customers and more and more data — how do we manage that better to continue to add value to our customers?"

Growth 500 winners are profiled in a special print issue of Canadian Business published with Maclean’s magazine.

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