Work to Grow: A Vision to Reduce and Repurpose Waste in Newfoundland
About 400,000 tonnes of food waste is thrown out every year in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 3F Waste Recovery, a startup of 11 people in St. Anthony, Newfoundland, wants to decrease that number. The three F’s in the company’s name stand for farm, fish and forestry — the main areas in which they’re trying to reduce waste.
Jonathan Yick is a natural product bioengineer with 3F, working there through Nature Canada’s Work to Grow program. He’s involved in multiple projects that try to reduce waste from the environment – such as dealing with cod by-products and repurposing farm waste.
“I find, especially in Newfoundland, that waste reduction is an issue. Our recycling program, our environmental programs aren’t that great,” Yick said. “Given the way the world is going, we need to start reducing waste now, or else we might not have a world to live in.”
Yick helps with anything related to research and development, such as determining equipment needs, setting up job sites, and other engineering-related tasks.
When it comes to waste that industries produce, Yick gave the example of cod fish. When it’s filleted, only 40 percent of the fish is used. The remaining 60 percent is dumped back into the ocean or sent to a landfill.
“We’re trying to make it so that the by-products, or what you would consider waste, is actually going to be more valuable than the fish fillets,” he said. “By doing that, it will create an incentive for people to develop less waste or find a new use for it.”
As part of the company’s Zero Waste Farms project, the hope is to divert more than 200 metric tons of Newfoundland farm waste.
Dedicated to working in zero waste
Yick said that he always considered a career in the biomedical or environmental field, even though that’s uncommon for his degree.
“Going through mechanical engineering, I always knew that I wanted to steer away from oil and gas, which is one of the main fields for a mechanical engineer, mainly because I didn’t want to contribute to that kind of industry,” he explained.
“When I was told about 3F Waste Recovery, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity. While it doesn’t pay as well as an oil and gas company, I feel like I’m doing something substantial and something meaningful. That’s the main thing.”
Although the Work to Grow position is temporary, he’ll have the opportunity to continue his work with the company afterwards.
“We’re such a small company, so we rely heavily on funding sources, such as Work to Grow,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing to have those opportunities. Otherwise. I don’t think I would have been taken on in the first place.”
Yick hopes that the job will inspire others as well.
“I do believe that our initiatives to approach zero waste will make a huge difference, at least to Newfoundland, and hopefully to the rest of Atlantic Canada. Maybe it can be a model that can be approached by the rest of Canada and even the world.”