January 9, 2006

VIA Rail honoured for innovative textile recycling program

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) recently presented its 2005 Environmental Protection Award to VIA Rail Canada in recognition of a textile recovery and recycling initiative by the company. The idea for the initiative came from James Kleiner, a senior officer in VIA's service design department. Lori Hokan, VIA's service design officer, led the recovery and recycling activity with business partners in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax.

Under the program, VIA recovers and/or recycles old uniforms and damaged linen from its employees and operations, which it then delivers to partner Habitat for Humanity in Vancouver, Winnipeg and Halifax. The uniforms and linens are resold in Habitat's thrift stores (better know as Re-stores) with the money helping to fund the construction of homes for needy families.

In Toronto the partner is Canadian Mill Supply, which makes much of the linen into all-purpose towels. Most of the uniforms and some of linen are given to local shelters.

In Montreal, the partner is Certex, a charitable organization that takes old uniforms, clothing and linens for donations to third world countries. If not for VIA's program, all of these textiles would have ended up in landfills.

The textile recycling initiative was awarded points by the RAC for its originality, cost-effectiveness, the ease with which it can be adapted by other association members, and for the popular support it has generated among employees, contractors and clients.

In Vancouver, for example, VIA's contract laundry service has asked for a contact at Habitat for Humanity to which it could send damaged linen from other commercial clients. Recently, VIA's Montreal laundry service has also taken similar approach.

In other environmental achievements, Mike Greenberg, VIA's vice-president, environment, procurement and real estate, reported to last month's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal that passenger rail is helping Canada to meet its targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

"The Kyoto Protocol calls for a 6% reduction in GHGs below 1990 levels by 2012," Greenberg told the conference. "Even though we are carrying more passengers, VIA has already cut GHGs by 11% since 1990, and cut fuel consumption per passenger kilometre by 28%".

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