Norm Price is doing his best to preserve our environment one bottle cap at a time.
Price established Bottle Cap Lure in 2000, a company that makes fishing lures from discarded bottle caps, and then in 2003 formed Hooked On Recycling, a non-profit charitable venture that collects bottle caps for both recycling and sale to Bottle Cap Lure.
Some of the bottle caps end up as fishing lures, those that are unusable are sent to a smelting plant in Regina to be melted down and repurposed for other uses.
“What I found is so many of these bottle caps are discarded and deposited in landfills, where scavenger birds and seagulls fill their bellies with them,” Price explained. “But they don’t pass through their system and the birds end up dieing from starvation.”
Price was in Vernon on Thursday to set up store displays at the Vernon Co-op, Canadian Tire and Fisher’s Home Hardware for his fishing lure product.
While his company and charitable off-spring are set up in Regina, his hope is to have offices for both established in every province across Canada.
Beyond the environmental benefit, Price said the lures ultimately work for anglers.
He cites the success of Andy Vander Ploeg, a four-time national fishing champion who exclusively used the bottle cap lures.
“After winning the title three years in a row, people began questioning his legitimacy, so he took a year off the competition, and then entered again the following year putting all his catches on video for the record, and he won again,” said Price.
Price says the folded-cap lures can hold bait intact and allow for the release of bait scent that attracts the fish.
“They move through the water like a minnow with that scent, and the flash of the caps actually looks like a minnow causing fish to strike, and they strike aggressively.”
Price comes by his expertise in fishing honestly from at one time operating one of the largest outdoor adventure and fishing guide companies in Canada out of Calgary.
It was during that period of his life when he accidentally stumbled across the bottle cap lure idea.
“Peaks Brewery had sent me a flat of beer in return for a brand of fishing rods I was selling as a promotion. I was just sitting at my shop enjoying a beer with a friend when I flipped the bottle cap onto the top of my desk and it landed next to a fishing hook,” Price said.
“That’s where the idea came into my head of how bottle caps could be a possible fishing lure.”
Price created a bottle cap lure and tried out his idea on the Bow River in Calgary, catching a 28-inch brown trout on his first cast.
While he formed the lure company in 2003, he had some challenges getting it started.
He originally planned to set up shop in Sherbrooke, Que., his hometown, in 2000 with a commitment of $400,000 in start-up funding from the provincial government.
“After we located there, we found out the grant we expected had been chewed up by the Liberal Party sponsorship scandal going on there at the time,” he said.
That soon followed with receiving a letter from Molson Brewery, threatening a lawsuit against him if he used their company’s bottle caps in his new venture without paying a royalty fee.
Media coverage of his startup dilemmas reached the office of then federal environment minister Rona Ambrose.
“When I got the call from her, I had to step back and looked at my phone and said, ‘You mean the Rona Ambrose?’ She said to send her the letter from Molson and wait to hear back from her,” Price recalled.
“She phoned me back 15 minutes later and told me to check my e-mail, which got my heart pumping because I thought I might be in trouble.”
Ambrose had fired off a letter to Molson saying the government would hold the brewery financially responsible to exhume discarded bottle caps from landfill sites across Canada, which would amount to one of the most expensive environment cleanup projects in Canada’s history, if it did not cease legal threats against Price’s venture.
“I said to her that letter was like the Willy Wonka golden ticket for me. The next day I received another letter from Molson telling me the bottle caps did not belong to the company, wished me luck in my endeavour and to refrain from contacting them again.”
He eventually found his way to Saskatchewan and settled in Regina where he found support for his concept.
Beyond the smelter recycling contract, SaskAbilities (Saskatchewan Abilities Council) formed a partnership with Price to provide workers for the task of assembling the lures.
Hooked On Recycling was incorporated as a charitable organization in 2017, able to offer tax rebate to pubs, bars and restaurants for mailing costs to send them their disposed bottle caps, which Price estimates amounts to be about 100,000 tonnes discarded across North America every month.
To help give the product more traction, Bottle Cap Lure and Hooked On Recycling have sponsored a national fishing contest in 2018 with a top prize of $100,000 and $50,000 bonus prize for most fish caught using the company’s fishing lures. For registry and contest rules, check out the website www.beercaplure.ca.