Nyle Ludolph started his career as a garbage collector in Kitchener and ended it being known as the “father of the blue box” whose work in developing a recycling program has spread across the world.
by Helen Hall
Ludolph passed away last October at the age of 84, and continued to be passionate throughout his retirement about recycling and reducing the amount of waste going to landfills.
“My Dad never lost interest (in recycling) and kept in touch with folks at the Region,” said his daughter Linda Padfield in an interview following a ceremony naming the Nyle Ludolph Materials Recycling Centre at the Waterloo Landfill on Erb Street West in Waterloo.
Ludolph’s children Douglas, Larry and Linda attended the ceremony with their children and grandchildren. Ludolph’s wife Marion died in 1996.
A new sign was posted on the building, and a portrait of Ludolph was unveiled that people will see when they tour the recycling centre.
According to a history of the blue box called “We Recycle - The Creators of the Blue Box Program” on the Pollution Probe website, Ludolph got involved when he represented Superior Sanitation (later known as Laidlaw Waste Systems) as a speaker about recycling at an environmental festival called “Garbage Fest 77” in Kitchener. It was organized by Eric Hellman, a student and Pollution Probe volunteer.
Jack McGinnis of Resource Integration Systems (RIS) was also a speaker at Garbage Fest. RIS’s goal was to pursue consulting contracts in the field of recycling and waste management. McGinnis and Ludolph met for the first time at the event.
After Garbage Fest 77, Ludolph was given the mandate to increase his company’s presence in recycling. He became the manager of Total Recycling Systems, a subsidiary of Superior Sanitation. Ludolph was an avid recycler, and it is reported that he only had six bags of curbside garbage that year.
In 1981, RIS worked closely with Ludolph and submitted a proposal for a curbside pilot project to pick up recycling in Kitchener. Ludolph and Total Recycling took care of the operation of the program.
Over 1,000 homes in central Kitchener were part of the project. They were asked to sort steel cans, glass and paper from their garbage.
Within the test area, 250 homes were given a blue box for their recyclables. It is believed that the colour blue was chosen for the boxes because it looked good and was easy to see on the curb.
In the first month, Total Recycling collected 16,379 kgs of recyclables - about triple the amount it had expected. People started asking for a blue box of their own.
Ludolph learned that Kitchener shared his passion for recycling.
In 1983, the blue box program was expanded to cover the entire city and 75 percent of homeowners participated.
In 1990, the Region of Water-loo took over waste collection in Kitchener, including the blue box program. By 1991, all three cities and four townships in the region were recycling.
The region built the recycling centre, now named for Ludolph, at the Waterloo landfill site in 1991. It was the first community sorting centre in Ontario.
Blue boxes are now found in cities across the world that practise recycling.
Ludolph’s work is recognized at the Waterloo Region Museum’s current exhibit Unconventional Thinking: Innovation in Waterloo Region, which looks at local ideas, from blue boxes to BlackBerrys, that have made Waterloo Region a centre of innovation in Ontario.
NYLE LUDOLPH MATERIALS RECYCLING CENTRE
Recycling Centre re-named after Kitchener’s “Father of the Blue Box”
THEIR GREAT-GRANDFATHER’S LEGACY
Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Nyle Ludolph attended a ceremony at the Waterloo Region Landfill on April 19th naming the Nyle Ludolph Recycling Centre in honour of Ludolph’s work introducing the recycling program in Kitchener in the 1981. That program has flourished in Waterloo Region and spread to cities around the world. With a portait of Ludolph are four of his great-grandsons, from left: Jordan Ludolph, Brett Verutis, Troy Verutis, and Tyler Ludolph.
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