Raven Recycling has been in the news this week about the City of Whitehorse landfill contract for gate-keeping. I have been asked by a number of reporters why our current bid was lower than the previous contract amount by $30,000. This is an excellent opportunity to clarify how Raven funded our operations in the past and some of the issues we are dealing with currently.
Raven Recycling is a social enterprise run by a board of directors. Better known as a non-profit, our business model is based on investing in our community with all profits that we make. Our financial records are open to the public. We provide charitable tax receipts to our donors and adhere to the requirements of Yukon government’s Societies Act. We do not receive core operational funding from any level of government; we received grants for infrastructure until 2012.
In the past, we were able to maintain our operations at the same time as making a profit on our service contracts and commodity sales. Our profits went to subsidizing the costs of recycling non-refundables, handling hard to recycle materials, and supporting our education programs. We also invested in infrastructure to make our services more convenient for the public.
Over time, our profit margins have eroded dramatically. It began in 2008 when the world commodity markets crashed. They have recovered but are not expected to reach the levels they once were. In addition to that we have seen an increase in the volumes of materials we are handling while shipping costs have increased. Only a small proportion of the materials we recycle (10 per cent) are funded through the beverage container regulations (bottle depot).
Small business interest in service contracts available to Raven is changing our business model. Although we did not have the lowest bid for the gatehouse contract, our bid was competitive. It would have allowed us to invest some money in our educational programming and provide much needed stability in our monthly cash flow. The previous contract allowed us to invest $30,000 in our educational and other programming.
We are responding to uncertainty like all those involved in the recycling industry and will continue to operate as a social enterprise, investing in the community as we are able. There are a variety of tools available to governments to build a sustainable system that is viable and provides good service to the public. Until those tools are in place, we appreciate the public’s support as we continue to work to divert as much waste from landfills as possible while educating the public.
Executive director, Raven Recycling