Tricity News: “Buzzing is all in the Biz at Associated Labels and Packaging”

Tricity News: “Buzzing is all in the Biz at Associated Labels and Packaging”

April 5, 2016

Jay Ashworth

Jay Ashworth, marketing and sustainability manager at Associated Labels, shows staff the caged queen bee that will go into the Coquitlam company’s new parking lot apiary.

On a blustery Monday morning, Shaun Ashworth traded his suit jacket for a beekeeping suit and stepped into a fenced enclosure to help his brother, Jay Ashworth, pour 32,000 honey bees into specially made homes in the parking lot of Associated Labels and Packaging.

As the president of the Coquitlam company, Shaun is decidedly more at home in an office than an apiary but is keen to support the beekeeping venture proposed by Jay, the company’s marketing and sustainability manager.

“Our company is focused on sustainability, awareness, creating less of a carbon footprint and contributing less trash to the landfill,” Shaun said. “Even if he wasn’t my brother I probably would have said yes.”

Shaun Ashworth
Associated Labels president Shaun Ashworth removes some of the 16,000 bees from a tube before putting them in the Coquitlam company’s new parking lot apiary. – Photo by Jordi Ashworth

As Jay completed a beekeeping course, Shaun had a fenced enclosure built at the rear of the property, where it backs on to a greenbelt that joins up with the Fraser Mills site. There are two wooden apiaries now, and plenty of room for expansion.

On Monday, a handful of the company’s 180 employees gathered to watch the installation as Jay and Shaun emptied two long tubes, each packed with two pounds of bees — that’s 16,000 per tube — into each “house.”

Associated Labels president Shaun Ashworth holds a honeycomb from the Coquitlam company’s new parking lot apiary.

The queen bee is installed in a cage to keep her — and the rest of the bees — from flying away, and the bees will likely have her released within a few days.

They’ll survive on pre-mixed sugar water until more flowers crop up in the area; Jay and his girlfriend, Sarah Rutherford, planted wildflower seeds in the area as future bee food. And by September, the honeycombs will be removed and the honey harvested and likely given away as gifts (labels for the jars shouldn’t be a problem).

Interested employees can be part of the action as Jay will be giving courses for anyone interested in learning about beekeeping.

Associated Labels bees
Associated Labels staff look on as some 32,000 bees are placed in the Coquitlam company’s new parking lot apiary.

“It’s been awesome for company culture,” he said, noting the project has generated plenty of conversation among the staff.

Jay is also spearheading a community garden project at Associated Labels, with plans to turn disused parking lot plant beds into food-growing plots.

Meanwhile, Shaun is applying environmentally friendly principles to the business with the creation of the first fully compostable, non-GMO stand-up pouch in North America.

“It was four years in development,” Shaun said. “It took a lot of time and money… but there’s enough garbage out there already going out to the landfill.”

In fact, of the 17 billion plastic stand-up pouches made in 2013, none were recyclable or compostable — a number that gave Shaun pause when he thought of the future he’d be leaving for his children.

“We’re trying to do our part with end-of-life packaging,” he said. “Even if this went into the trash, I know it will be gone. Maybe not within six months but definitely in a year.”

The packages, made of non-GMO corn starch and Forestry Stewardship Council-certified birch and eucalyptus pulp, with non-toxic ink, are being used by the quinoa company Alter Eco. Testing has shown the packages disintegrate in about three to six months.

The only drawback is cost, with a price point of more than double that of a similar non-recyclable pouch.

Changing that will simply be another business challenge for Shaun that, fortunately for the slightly more squeamish of the Ashworth brothers, doesn’t involve handling bees.

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