Looking up at an office building with a tree in the foreground

Producing Parts, Peppers and Wildflower Honey

The sustainability efforts at Magna’s Plastcoat division in Brampton, Ontario, include the “Plastcoat Farm,” where employees tend a large on-site vegetable garden and a beehive – the latest initiatives in the facility’s ongoing efforts to protect the environment.

“We were so excited to get a garden going in 2023,” said Angie Papadakis, the division’s Human Resources Manager and a lifelong gardener. “For the first year, we’re letting employees enjoy the harvest and donate money from the produce. So far, we’ve raised over $500 for SickKids, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, from the sale of tomatoes, peppers, kale and other vegetables. Next year, what we grow may go directly to the local food bank.”

“We work together, get engaged and learn something new.”

Headshot Angie Papadakis

The garden was the idea of Plastcoat’s sustainability team; the beehive came from Lawrence Vanin, the division’s Engineering Manager, who also happens to be an avid beekeeper. He maintains four beehives at Vanin Honey Farms in Orangeville, Ontario, in his spare time.

“We have all sorts of great sustainability projects at Plastcoat to reduce energy and waste,” Vanin said. “But we also must support the environment in other ways. Bees are essential to people and the planet.”

People working on a garden
People working on a garden

The Beekeepers

Vanin donated the equipment and installed the bee colony here. He keeps a complete set of protective gear for two people, along with a smoker to calm down the bees, in his Plastcoat office. Neil Yan, the division’s IT Manager, is the assistant beekeeper – a beginner who has only gotten one sting so far, Vanin notes with pride.

Plastcoat, which produces exterior parts for major North American OEMs, is located next to an open field filled with wildflowers, an excellent location for the bees.

“The bees are foraging around the area and going crazy with the goldenrod,” Vanin said in early autumn. When honey production gets up and running, the division may raffle it off for charitable donations.

Head shots of Lawrence Vanin and Neil Yan

“This is a great example of the Magna Core Value ‘be collaborative,’” said Vanin. “We work together, get engaged and learn something new.”

Bees on a honeycomb
Beekeeper holding a honeycomb with bees

Industrial Impact

The garden and beehives are part of a broader sustainability push at Plastcoat, as Magna strives to attain its most ambitious environmental commitment to date: to achieve Net-Zero emissions by 2050, an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

“Employee awareness is a big part of our sustainability objectives,” said Jason Barber, Plastcoat’s Health, Safety and Environmental Manager, who grew up close to nature on a small farm in Port Loring, Ontario. “Each piece goes together, from the gardens and beehives to our initiatives to conserve energy and resources. That’s how we make an impact.”

Plastcoat has already achieved zero waste-to-landfill, diverting all waste from landfill disposal, since 2016. Barber notes in 2022 alone, Plastcoat diverted 269 metric tons of waste, with half of the material recycled and the rest going to a processing site where it is reconverted into energy for the Ontario grid.

Through the WAGES program – short for Water, Air, Gas, Electricity, Silos – the division collects data and measures resource use in real time, so teams can react instantly if sensors highlight a concern, including at the operator level on the shop floor. Barber likens it to monitoring a water bill at home and adjusting the amount used for daily activities.

The facility also conserves electricity by shutting off 90% of equipment during the weekends.

Headshot Jason Barber

It’s not only the sustainability team that’s coming up with great ideas to safeguard resources and the planet. Barber said front-line workers are making significant contributions.

“Here’s a great example,” he said. “All of the work cells on the assembly line have lights and fans that ran constantly in the past. The employees asked for the ability to turn them off and on as needed. At their request, we wired everything. When people are aware, they can begin to make an impact.

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