VITA Daily Interview with Bob Cain

Did you know that more than 31 million Canadians own a smartphone? We all rely on phone cases to protect our most indispensable device, but these phone cases contribute to our world’s plastic pollution, ending up in landfills coast-to-coast at an unthinkable rate. We chatted with Bob Cain of Eco-Train: an innovative Canadian start-up in Burnaby, B.C., which is expanding its mission to support earth-friendly products with the launch of Canada’s first-ever national recycling program for cellphone cases. —Vita Daily

Hi Bob! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.

I grew in St. Catharines, Ontario. I attended Brock University and Niagara College studying Neuroscience and Electronic Engineering Technology. I started my family at a young age and raised three children who are now grown up in their mid to late 20s.  My youngest, Lauren, has been very much involved with Eco-Train since day one as the graphic designer for the company. I moved to B.C. at the age of 41 with a keen interest in outdoor activities like mountain biking, hiking and kayaking. I’ve always felt a strong connection to nature and living in B.C. has been a lifelong dream. I’ve been living in B.C. for eight years now. To me, it’s the most perfect place in the world to live, work and play. I’ve worked in the Canadian wireless industry for nearly 20 years and sold a lot of accessories. The vast majority are mostly made of plastic and have been destined to eventually become landfill.

When and why did you launch Eco-Train? What’s your mission?

It was the summer of 2019. I was growing more and more concerned about the state of the environment. Between 2013 and 2018 we saw the five hottest annual temperatures ever recorded globally. Each summer the number of forest fires in B.C. seemed to be growing in number, getting bigger and lasting longer. There were times the entire province was consumed in smoke for a month or more at a time. It’s very troubling not to be able to see mountains 2-3 km away due to the thick cloud of smoke covering the western part of Canada and the U.S. I had also just learned that 20 per cent of the world’s coral had died between 2015 and 2018. More than half of the world’s oxygen comes from plant life in the ocean. I was deeply concerned about the state of the world and just how liveable it would be for our children, grandchildren and future generations. We’re in big trouble if society continues to accept the status quo by behaving, living and doing business the same ways we have in the past. I opened Eco-Train with the goal of spreading awareness about environmental issues while aiming to stimulate the behavioural shift necessary to turn things around. My original plan was to open a retail store and an e-commerce business that would sell exclusively earth friendly products while striving toward achieving a waste free future. Secondly, I wanted to build an awareness app to “train” consumers and businesses to become more sustainable in their everyday activities. Eco-Train commits to creating a sustainable consumer landscape with a focus on advancing the circular economy. We are dedicated to the promotion of Earth-friendly products and resource recovery to eliminate waste.

You most recently rolled out Canada’s first-ever national recycling program for cellphone cases. What’s the problem, environmentally speaking, with these (now) common items?

Shortly after opening Eco-Train, I was tasked with developing the “go to retail” market strategy for two new compostable phone case brands (Pela and Nutrisiti by Uunique London) while also being employed by Hitfar Concepts. I started my research by attending the 2019 Zero Waste Conference, which is held in Vancouver every year by the National Zero Waste Council as well as a Workshop for Compostable Plastics held by the Recycling Council of BC. It is these two events where I learned how catastrophic the global plastic pollution crisis is and that municipal waste management programs in Canada do not recognize compostable plastics in either the green or blue box programs. A significant and troubling gap existed that required immediate attention. I started the Phone Case Recovery program with the goal of educating all stakeholders in our industry about this issue with the goal of implementing an affordable and effective material recovery program to eliminate the waste generated by our industry.

Why can’t municipal recycling depots deal with phone cases?

The vast majority of phone cases are made from different combinations of mixed plastics. These different materials have been moulded together and have different melting points. Therefore, they cannot be recycled by traditional recycling methods. Secondly, even if a phone case is made from a single type of material, like PP#5 for example, the vast majority of North American recycling companies only accept PP#5 packaging like ketchup bottles but not PP#5 products like the Lifeproof WAKE phone case.

What about phone cases touted as sustainably made?

There are a number of phone case brands now making ASTM D6400 certified compostable phone cases. However, compost facilities only accept food waste and paper that break down in 4-6 weeks. They are in the business of selling compost and turning their product out quickly. Compostable phone cases may take up to two years to break down in an industrial compost facility. Therefore, industrial composters take them out and throw them in the garbage anyway. Same thing goes for compostable plastic coffee cup lids or food ware.

How does the Phone Case Recovery Program work?

There are a growing number of Canadian retail partners now supporting this program. Consumers can bring back their old phone cases and drop them in one of our Phone Case Recovery boxes. The retailers ship boxes of these cases back to an Eco-Train sorting facility.  Eco-Train removes the compostable Pela cases and sends them back to Pela for either regrind/rebirth into new products, or Pela has the material properly composted. The rest of the cases are sent to one of our recycling partners to shred and grind the material for preparation to be sent to Geocycle for Co-processing. This keeps the material from ever becoming landfill or pollution and provides 100 per cent value recovery of the materials.

Any other common items you have your eye on, in terms of creating better recycling options?

Toys are next. There are mountains of children’s toys thrown away in landfills every year. It’s imperative that we teach children at a young age the importance of recycling and not throwing things away when they are done using them.


This Burnaby company offers new way to recycle your old phone cases

You may think when you drop your phone case in the blue bin that it will be recycled – it will not

Story featured in Burnaby Now   By: Cameron Thomson

Eco-Train Inc. has started a phone case recovery program that recycles phone cases otherwise headed to landfills.

A company headquartered in Burnaby has created a program to keep old phone cases out of landfills – the place they would end up even if they were placed in the blue recycling bin.

Eco-Train Inc. launched the first-of-its-kind phone case recovery program on Global Recycling Day on March 18. The company states that while there are sustainably-made phone cases available, recycling depots will not process them – creating a gap Eco-Train sought to fill. The program aims to unite major mobile accessory brands, retailers, and distributors in a collaborative effort to eliminate landfill waste.

“Eco-Train saw the opportunity to bring business and manufacturers together to share the responsibility for recycling phone cases to encourage and foster a healthy circular economy,” says Bob Cain, CEO and founder at Eco-Train. “Our phone case recovery program offers the most affordable and effective solution to reduce plastic waste generated by the phone case industry in Canada, this means hundreds of tons of waste a year saved from our landfills.”

To recycle your falling-apart phone case with Eco-Train you can use their store locator to find the closest drop-off location to you. Carried by an expanding number of businesses, Eco-Train’s drop off boxes will accept cases made of all materials except those containing batteries or made of metal.

For a sense of scale, more than 31 million Canadians own a smartphone. With smartphone users only holding onto their cases for an average of 25 months, Eco-Train estimates Canadians use 35 million phone cases each year.

“We all rely on phone cases to protect our most indispensable device,” reads a media release from Eco-Train. “These phone cases contribute to our world’s plastic pollution, ending up in landfills coast-to-coast at an unthinkable rate”



Eco-Train named #RecyclingHero for Global Recycling Day!

To mark Global Recycling Day, the Global Recycling Foundation announced the ten #RecyclingHeroes who have each won a $500 prize thanks to their dedication and innovation in local recycling. The winners were selected from nominations received from several countries across the globe covering all the main continents. Their work spans all parts of the recycling industry from plastic to textiles and household items.

The ten winners are:

  • Rien Voets, Holland – He is a symbol of the many people who voluntarily work to clean our living environment every day. Since retiring as a Teacher, Rien Voets joined a local Municipality to work as a Volunteer litter picker. He goes out every day on his bike, which has a trailer hooked up to it, to collect litter all around his township.
  • Green Axis, Nigeria – promoting cleaning and recycling campaign in Enugu city of Nigeria. Working with volunteers who help in organising regular clean up drives collecting recyclables whilst helping to restore the environment to a safe and clean one. The group also run local educational programs on the importance of recycling with the communities.
  • Abdi Hirsi, Somalia – started as volunteer with a motto of “waste is a resource” and now owns an award-winning pioneer recycling company based in Mogadishu, Somalia. Started first Plastic Recycling plant using World Bank grant, is today serving 17 districts in Mogadishu producing house construction items.
  • Bokashi Bran (Pty) Ltd, South Africa – promotes the recycling of food waste to compost using their unique bokashi system. To date, it has been instrumental in guiding customers to divert about 30 000 tonnes of food waste from landfill. It manufactures bokashi on a commercial scale while providing training and education on food waste separation at source and composting. Composting food waste cuts GHG by 98%.
  • EcoAct-Tanzania, a social enterprise, manufacturing eco-friendly building materials from plastic waste by using an in house developed technology “Waxy II Technology” that is chemical free & energy conserving plastic extrusion system. Promoting circular economy whilst preserving forests by reducing consumption of Timber.
  • International WeLoveU Foundation, Korea – Launched in 2001 from Korea today works in 63 countries associated with UN DGC helping promote the environment by planting trees, clean up campaigns across beaches, parks, communities & even in mountainous areas. In 2020 launched a “Recycling Challenge” campaign to help raise awareness of PPE pollution from the disposable products used during the COVID pandemic.
  • Dgrade, Dubai UAE – Working with over 200 schools in UAE, promoting beach clean-up campaigns, organising education workshops in increasing collection of plastics which is used in manufacturing sustainable clothing. Working with communities to reduce waste to landfill, increasing participation, a good business community model of participation.
  • Eco-Train, Canada – A first in the Industry to promote the collection of phone cases in an industry wide collaborative effort. The speed of change in the phone industry sees vast quantities of discarded phone covers and phones, and so promoting recycling in this sector is of utmost importance.
  • Metal Shredder, Hungary – An innovative way of extracting elements from Xray films and promoting use of recovered silver and extracts used to make filters for use in face masks during the Covid crisis. main focus is the sustainable and efficient recycling of e-waste, extraction of precious and base metals from end-of-life components.
  • Eco Spindles Private Ltd, Sri Lanka – Largest recycler in Sri Lanka producing yarn using PET flakes circumventing the traditional polymerization process. Have initiated several waste collections drives across Sri Lanka from Fishing harbours, Beach clean-up drives, local communities and schools. Promoting innovative sustainable practices across the country including introduction of a Waste Recycling awareness app for smart phone users.

The #RecyclingHeroes competition, which was launched in February 2020, encouraged people from across the globe to nominate individuals, business or communities that are setting examples and pushing boundaries with their recycling initiatives. In addition to receiving a $500 prize, the Global Recycling Foundation will promote the ten winners’ work to audiences across the world.

The fourth annual Global Recycling Day took place on 18th March with individuals, businesses, cities, and communities marking the day on social media, in their homes and communities. Ranjit S Baxi, Founder and President of the Global Recycling Foundation said: “Once again this year there has been an astonishing variety of entries from countries around the world making it very difficult to select just ten winners. But for us every single entrant is a hero and champion for your contributions in the vital campaign to combat climate change and drive home the message of recycling and sustainability.”


The Circular Economy

The linear way our economies use and dispose of resources is increasingly putting pressure on our natural systems, communities, and public health. Transitioning to a clean economy starts with finding smart new approaches and technologies that create economic opportunities out of the materials we might otherwise throw away.

The circular economy is a new way of doing business that extracts as much value as possible from resources by recycling, repairing, reusing, repurposing, or refurbishing products and materials—eliminating waste and greenhouse gas emissions at the design stage. Businesses can use circular designs to save money or open up new market opportunities, from turning pulp-and-paper-mill waste into renewable bioproducts, to launching product buy-back programs that enhance customer interaction and recover usable materials. This movement has been gaining global momentum in recent years.

Simply put, by participating in the circular economy, communities, businesses, and people—of all ages and from all walks of life—are rethinking the potential value of materials and products before they become waste. The circular economy is finding ways to move toward greener, more sustainable options that support a cleaner and more competitive economy.

The long-term goal of the circular economy is to design out the concept of waste.

Learn more from the Government of Canada – HERE

World Circular Economy Forum 2021

The 2021 edition of the landmark circular economy event of the year, the World Circular Economy Forum, will be held in Toronto, Ontario, at the Beanfield Centre, from September 13 to 15.

Canadian businesses and the circular economy

The Canadian business community is at the forefront of reimagining the way we use our resources.

Get involved in the Circular Economy

Some examples of creative ways to recycle or repurpose items, reduce food waste, and repair things instead of throwing them out.


Ellen MacArthur Foundation

National Zero Waste Council 

Circular Innovation Council

Recycling Council of BC

Plastics Pact – New Plastics Economy

Canada Plastics Pact 

Phone Case Recovery Uncategorized

Zero Waste Conference

The Zero Waste Conference is presented by Metro Vancouver and the National Zero Waste Council offering participants a curated program of local and global thought leaders who share their insights and inspirations about circular economy success stories and waste prevention innovations.

Resiliency, Prosperity, Carbon Neutrality – the Circular Economy Solution

We live in a vastly changed and rapidly changing world. What was once waste is now considered essential, and our future is no longer about a ‘return to normal’. But what does it mean to step into creative and innovative thinking that determines not just improvements on the past, but radical newness? How do we broaden the mantra of Build Back Better so that there is ample space for creativity and innovation, for new frontiers and new concepts of community and prosperity? How do we craft a future for ourselves as Canadians and as global citizens that help us secure healthy, strong, thriving, resilient, prosperous and inclusive communities for generations to come?

The circular economy offers a solution. By designing out waste, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems, it creates vital opportunities for economic growth that also restore the environment, create jobs, and benefit society.

Disruptive times can be the kindling that fuels both creativity and innovation. Leading businesses and governments have already taken important steps towards building a circular economy and now is the time to build on this momentum and do more, not less.

For 10 years, the Zero Waste Conference has been at the forefront of Canada’s circular economy journey. And once again, we are bringing together thought leaders, innovators and change makers, surfacing some of the best ideas from the last 10 years while at the same time, presenting pioneering solutions that take us to a future we’ve only begun to dare dream is possible.

As the world faces unprecedented challenges, we are more committed than ever to accelerating the transition to a circular, zero waste economy, creating solutions that combine economic opportunity with benefits to wider society and the environment.

We invite you to join us once again.

Register here –


Product Spotlight

The Swag

Swag bags are designed to keep your produce fresher for longer…like 2 weeks longer and guess what? They totally work! This uniquely designed bag allows me to stock up at the market on weekends without having to worry about eating all my delicious goodies quickly before they go to waste.

Not only do these bags save me money on my grocery bill by eliminating food waste, they also save me time by cutting the amount of grocery trips I make and they cut my trash by eliminating the need for plastic produce bags. They work with all produce from apples to berries to potatoes and I love how they are colour coated for convenience, which helps to keep the fridge organized as well as clean.

If I haven’t already convinced you that you need The Swag, these Oprah approved (that’s right Oprah likes them too) bags are made from non toxic compostable cotton, are vegan and plastic free, ethical and fair trade certified and are machine washable. If you are looking to reduce your use of single use products and want to keep your produce fresher longer these are for you. I’ll be honest, they weren’t cheap, but I’m sure what I paid for them I have already recouped the cost in less food waste.

Check them out and the other Swag merch they offer. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!


Sustainable Products and Material Recovery for a more Circular Economy

The June 2020 edition of the eco-train Newsletter highlights some the key happenings at eco-train during the month of June.    This edition includes updates on the Plastic Pollution Problem, World Oceans Day “Lifeproof – WAKE PROMO”,  The Ocean Legacy Foundation and updates on the roll out of the Case Recovery Program in Canada.

To read more click here – eco-train Newsletter June 2020


Bob Cain (Founder)



World Oceans Day is June 8, 2020


Sign the Petition

Together We Can!

Leading scientists worldwide have determined that we need to protect at least 30% of our blue planet by 2030. World Oceans Day joins with many organizations on this important initiative. By signing the petition you are telling world leaders that you want action too! Working together we can protect our blue planet home for all!

To help, click on the link below and sign the Petition.   Thank-you!

Here is How You Can Help Protect Our Home:

1. Sign The Petition


2. Share the Message on Social


3. Tag #WorldOceansDay and #ProtectOurHome


4. Follow WorldOceansDay on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter