From mountain sides deep in the Himalayas to what was washing up on the shores of Hong Kong, Laska Pare was shocked by the mounds of plastic she saw.
“You could be in the most remote places and still just find piles of plastic,” Pare said, recalling her time living on the other side of the world. “It was becoming more and more prevalent that it was just destroying these sacred places.”
The amount of waste winding up in such beautiful scenes bothered her so much that it prompted a move to B.C. and began her unexpected path to founding Flipside Plastics in Victoria.
Starting in government, she ran small recycling initiatives and – after seeing the garbage bin overflow with single-use coffee cups every morning – she got her department to transition to reusable mugs. But as the bureaucratic pace of change got too slow for Pare, she began shredding and moulding blue bin plastics in her condo.
Buoyed by a Clean BC grant last year, Pare and her small team of micro-recyclers spent 2021 biking around to partnering cafes, picking up buckets of discarded coffee cup lids. The eight-month grant came with strict deadlines on having a finished product, so Pare polled local businesses to gauge what product would be in demand.
That led her to make prototype soap dishes from the otherwise trashed lids.
After seeing supply chain issues exposed by the pandemic’s impacts, Pare wants Flipside to demonstrate how supporting local businesses can create a domestic, circular solution to plastic waste.
“What we’re doing is very unique, we’re taking Canadian waste and making new products here in Canada,” she said. “People thought it was cool that we were turning plastic that they threw out into something new.”
As it scales up with a B.C.-based manufacturer and a reliable feedstock of provincially-sourced recycled material, Flipside is launching its improved soap dish model in October. The second-gen design is hollow with drainage holes and a separate catchment tray underneath for soapy water to prevent it from dripping on countertops or other surfaces.
The design will help prolong the life of soap bars, be kid-resilient from falls and breaks, last for ages and resolve all the “micro-inconveniences” one might tolerate with a normal soap dish, Pare said.
The CEO also expects governments are on the cusp of requiring producers to include more recycled content in products, so she views Flipside as being ahead of the industry curve.
“Being able to find the right suppliers to work with and really good partners that understand the value in what we’re doing, I’m really excited about what the future holds.”
That future will hopefully involve breaking into the wider home goods market, Pare said, with products made with recyclables instead of virgin plastics.
She wants a society that overuses disposable and single-use plastics to shift to reusable items, while also showing plastic doesn’t have to be the enemy if it’s used responsibly in a robust recycling system.
“If you’re very mindful about what you’re converting it into, there’s potential for it to really do some good.”
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