Get rid of your empties while helping local youth

The BottleWorks truck picks up empties by day, delivers beer by night – a neat symbiosis.

By Shlomo Coodin

BottleWorks and the Glebe Community Association (GCA) are teaming up to give people from our community and neighbouring ones the chance to help young people get valuable on-the-job experience. And it’s as easy as delivering your dust-collecting, space-usurping empty bottles and cans to a handy pop-up location at Kunstadt Sports on Bank Street. Pop-ups are scheduled for the last Saturday morning of each month. October’s date is Halloween Day.

BottleWorks is a social enterprise operated by Operation Come Home, a local charity that supports homeless and at-risk youth with education, employment, housing and more. It employs at-risk youth in picking up empty alcohol bottles and cans from local restaurants, bars, hotels and condominiums. While developing skills such as punctuality, teamwork, initiative and customer service, the program helps youth practise essential life skills, gain job experience and take pride in the work they’re doing. Youth are paired with a support worker to build resumes, find future employment and overcome obstacles. BottleWorks’ partners appreciate knowing that they’re supporting a great cause while receiving a cumulative annual charitable tax receipt for the value of all empties donated. Fully 100 per cent of revenues are invested in the program, and all of the profits go directly to Operation Come Home.

In May, with COVID-19 disrupting the service industry and reducing the supply of empties from bars and restaurants, BottleWorks began collecting donations from residents across Ottawa under an initiative called “Putting Your Empties to Work.” The community has stepped up, with Glebe residents collecting more than 23,000 empties (often brought to a neighbour serving as “block captain”) of the 120,000 collected city-wide from May to August.

“We’re very grateful for the tremendous support for this initiative from the Ottawa community,” said Brad Tessier, BottleWorks coordinator. “We’ve even had to hire another youth to keep up with the demand.”

BottleWorks is expanding efforts by partnering with the GCA on the new pop-up location, with a strong assist from Kunstadt Sports, whose owners are generously donating the use of their parking lot at 680 Bank Street. Any bottle, can, plastic container and Tetrapak that you could return to The Beer Store for refund can be donated. Upon drop-off, customers will complete a short form with a BottleWorks staff person to ensure they have the information needed for the annual tax receipt.

“Many community members will be so happy to know that they can support a great organization like Operation Come Home and make a difference in a vulnerable youth’s life in such a concrete way,” says Dan Chook Reid, chair of the GCA’s health, housing and social services committee. “I know many of us are looking for a place to donate our empties and will be delighted by this new opportunity!”

“We have heard from Glebe residents loud and clear over the last four months that they have donations of empties for BottleWorks, and we couldn’t be more thankful for their support,” said Tessier. “We’re excited to start this new project in a community that really came through for us during a difficult time. With the addition of the GCA’s efforts and support, and the generosity of Kunstadt Sports, we have no doubt that it will be a great success.”

Shlomo Coodin, a graduate of Algonquin College’s marketing program, has worked at Operation Come Home since 2019 and is supporting its new BottleWorks social enterprise.

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