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Driven toLive Your Dream: “We’re Energized by Our Green Commitment.”

Maclean’s Magazine , June 23, 2008
L’Actualité and Canadian Business Magazines, July 2008

While Nicole Stefenelli doesn’t consider herself a visionary, there are many people who would say she is. The idea she had in 1989 to start a recycling business couldn’t have been better timed.

Today, Urban Impact Recycling, which started with one employee and one vehicle, is a multi-million dollar business with 4,500 pick-up points in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, 50 employees, 30 fully automated vehicles and a 3,700 square metre warehouse in North Richmond.

“On a trip to Europe as a student in the late 1980’s, I was impressed with their green movement. Back in Vancouver, I started a demo project just to prove that commercial recycling was viable. I was then challenged to take it operational. A lot of hard work and discipline has gone into making this a successful business. But my passion for environmental protection has never dwindled and my partner and I agree there’s nothing we’d rather be doing than running Urban Impact Recycling.
Recycling was non-existent in the Vancouver area in the 1980’s. Blue boxes weren’t introduced here until 1991. The demo project I started while in university was really an academic pursuit. When I graduated, and decided to turn it into a business, little did I imagine that recycling would become as central to our lives as it is today.

It took time for people to embrace the recycling idea, but the business gradually expanded and then started to grow quickly about seven or eight years ago as more and more Vancouver area businesses began to seek ways to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

My partner and husband, Rod Nichols, joined me in the venture in 1992. We were always passionate about the environmental cause and found we had a knack for customer service, but we soon learned that it took more than that to run a business. We had to generate adequate cash flow, and financial results that we could leverage for growth. We learned the business side at what I call the ‘School of Hard Knocks’.

The relationship we developed with BDC was crucial to us. They were much more than a short-term lender, and had a unique approach. Of course they looked at the numbers, but they also banked on Rod and me. That was completely refreshing and we were empowered by their belief in us. We have been partners with BDC since 2000. They’ve helped us grow and expand.

Today, with an increasing worldwide demand for recycled materials, we have buyers from around the globe. To meet their demand, our main marketing thrust is aimed at getting more local businesses on board as recyclers. We also offer shredding services, an area that is experiencing healthy growth right now.

We compete in a very tight job market by providing our employees with an interesting place to work. We offer them profit-sharing opportunities and the chance to get involved in social responsibility initiatives such as tree planting to offset our carbon emissions. These projects really seem to engage staff members and that is very rewarding for us.

We’re planning a move to new premises that we’re modifying to suit our needs. Vancouver is undergoing a boom right now and with this new facility, we will be well positioned to tap into this explosive growth.”

If, like Nicole Stefenelli and Rod Nichols, you are looking for ways to turn an innovative idea into a successful business, go to


Specializing in: Office recycling, shredding, cleanup, waste audits
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Works with clients in: Canada, South America, Asia
Owners: Nicole Stefenelli and Rod Nichols
Number of employees: 50
Year founded: 1989
Web site: