Mother Earth Recycling Teaches Life Skills

Indigenous North End business giving employees an opportunity to gain important skills

WINNIPEG, MB. – Last year there were over 30,000 mattresses dumped into Winnipeg landfills. At first glance that number may not look alarming, but did you know that 90% of the mattress is actually recyclable?

Mother Earth Recycling (MER), a social enterprise owned by three separate non-profit aboriginal organizations (CAHRD, Neeginan Centre, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg) wants to help bring that number down.

MER was created when the three organizations got together in 2012 and decided they wanted to start a social enterprise to employ aboriginal people in the community. After buying a local company which was already doing e-waste (electronic) recycling, they rebranded it as Mother Earth Recycling.

For the first three years MER continued with the e-waste, but in 2016 they moved into their current location at 771 Main Street and began their mattress recycling program in January 2016.

Jessica Floresco, who has been the general manager at MER since the move to the new building, says the first year was productive, but there’s still plenty of work to do.

“This past year we processed about 2,500 units but our goal this year is to reach closer to 10,000 units,” Floresco adds. “With 30,000 mattresses going into the landfill each year, there is still plenty of work left to do and many more mattresses to be recycled.”

Ikea and Sleep Country are the main sources for MER. Those who buy IKEA or Sleep Country mattresses, and pay to have them delivered, can have their old ones removed and recycled for $15. The companies will either deliver or stockpile the mattresses at their stores for MER to pick up and they will then be disassembled and re-purposed back at MER’s facility.

Floresco has noticed a lot of people have questions about why there is a $15 dollar fee.

“The fee is necessary because at the moment there is no environment levy when a mattress is purchased,” Floresco says.

“When you buy an electronic product, pop, tires, or any other recyclable items you have to pay a levy fee to cover some of the costs of recycling that particular type of product, but for mattresses this is not the case so we charge the 15 dollars to cover that cost,” says Floresco. “We’re hopeful the province may consider doing this in the future.”

Mattresses have many recyclable components

There are many different materials in a mattress that can be recycled that many people may not know about.

Foam can become carpet underlay; fabric can serve as padding used by oil industries and absorbent material for oil spills, as well as yoga mats; metal can be recycled; wood can be chipped for playgrounds and other landscaping.

While there are many reasons people should want to recycle their mattresses, Floresco adds there’s a bigger impact involved.

“Not only can people take great pride in knowing they are helping the environment, but also they’re creating jobs and opportunities for people in one of Winnipeg’s poorest areas.”

“Our primary goal is to employ aboriginal people and provide training and life skills,” says Floresco. “We try to act as a launch point for that first job for people so we take a lot of people from CAHRD who are going through their programs.”

“A lot of people who come in don’t have any job skills, maybe they’re lacking education, or they have a criminal record which makes it difficult for them to find employment, and that’s where we can help.”

MER gets a lot of funding through CAHRD and their programs to employ people, which is usually for about six months per person. Some of the employees who have worked at MER have gone on to Red River College, have found employment elsewhere, or have been hired at MER.

“Since starting the program 17 months ago, a lot of the staff at the end of their training have asked if they could stay on longer,” says Floresco who adds it’s a testament to how when people find out the skills they have gained and the confidence they now have, they want to continue learning.

“The employees really enjoy working here.”

MER can recycle anything

What many people don’t realize about MER is that they also have a store where customers can purchase refurbished computers, laptops, TV’s, DVD’s, and many other items for a discounted price. Floresco says MER has even found different ways to create their own product with recycled material to sell in their store.

“Something we have done is taking fabric and foam from the mattresses and making them into dog beds.”

Finding new ways to use the recycled material to create jobs and help the indigenous community learn life skills is something very important to Floresco.

“We have a feasibility study for a new program going on right now that would see us take a truck with materials to the Women’s Correctional facility where they would learn how to sew and make things out of the materials which we would then bring back and sell,” says Floresco. “We’re excited to see the results of the study when it’s all done.”

“At the end of the day it’s all about creating jobs and opportunities for indigenous people and improving life skills in order to help them succeed,” adds Floresco.

“And I believe Mother Earth Recycling is doing that.”

SMARTBIZ for MyToba News

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Kevin Klein is President and CEO of MyToba News. The former publisher and CEO of the Winnipeg Sun, Kevin has spent several years in Canadian media working in newspapers, radio and television. A proud and passionate citizen of Winnipeg and Manitoba, Kevin is excited to bring you news, pictures and information on the many wonderful charity groups in our province. If you have an event you want us to know about, email Kevin at and follow him on Twitter @kevinkleinwpg.
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