WINNIPEG, MB – The University of Manitoba (UM) announced on March 3, 2016 it has awarded its 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award for Professional Achievement to Emmie Leung, Founder and CEO of Emterra Group.
Emterra Group comprises four divisions throughout Canada (located in BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario), and in the State of Michigan, USA that recover waste resources for recycling including packaging and paper, waste liquids and used tires, and operates more than a dozen recycling facilities where recyclable materials are processed for sale to end-markets. The company, which Leung started as a one-woman operation in 1976, has grown into a multi-million dollar family-owned business that annually markets about 500,000 tonnes of recyclable materials around the world.
One of her largest, state-of-the-art recycling operations is located in Winnipeg where Emterra Environmental provides integrated solid waste collection of recycling, garbage, yard waste and bulky items city-wide. Emterra also provides recycling collection services for a number of surrounding rural communities.
The UM announcement credited Leung for her perseverance in attaining a post-secondary school education, defying her father’s wishes that she be content with a future as a housewife in China. Immigrating by herself from Hong Kong to Canada, she lived in Winnipeg earning money to attend UM by working two waitress jobs and surviving initially on rice and Cheese Whiz. It was while walking in her Winnipeg neighbourhood that she noticed stacks of cardboard destined for the trash. She knew other countries would welcome such recyclable resource materials and that sparked her idea to start a recycling company.
Of those early days, Leung said: “It was tough but that hardship is behind me. What I cherish now is the future and that’s how I live my life,” Leung said.
One of the lessons Leung learned as a young entrepreneur is how difficult it can be for women who strive to excel in the business world and still be wives and mothers.
“We’re torn in two directions,” she said in an interview with the UM Alumni magazine. Leung is conscious of the how hard it is to break down gender and equality barriers and she has taken steps to make it easier for some who are interested in the environmental business by supporting employee diversity. For example, 30% of Emterra’s employees are female and 37% are self-identified as visible minorities. At the executive level, 35% are female and 24% are visible minorities.
The UM award is presented in recognition of “graduates who have achieved outstanding accomplishments in their professional and personal lives, and who have been an inspiration to fellow alumni, current students and the community, both close to home and around the globe.”
Leung has been recognized by both peers and well-respected organizations for her achievements as a business leader and entrepreneur. Last year, PROFIT and Chatelaine magazines ranked her as No. 15 on the 17th annual W100 list of Canada's Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs. Other prestigious awards include the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Ontario 2014 for Energy and Cleantech Award, EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ National Special Citation for Industry Pioneer, Canadian Waste Sector’s 2013 Executive of the Year in the large private business category, and the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs’ 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year.
About Emterra Group
Emterra Group is a Canadian leader in waste resources management. A family owned and operated company, it comprises four divisions offering municipal and industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) customers with a fully integrated approach to collecting, processing and marketing waste, recyclables, organic waste, used tires, and more. Emterra has operations in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Michigan, USA, and annually ships about 500,000 tonnes of recyclables to end-markets to be re-manufactured into new products. Driven by its mandate to increase the sustainability of its operations, Emterra is one of Canada’s most progressive users of alternative green fleet technologies in the waste management industry and consistently deploys the latest green technologies to truly “walk the talk”, including using CNG vehicles and fuelling stations and operating optical sorting equipment in its recycling plants.
Paulina Leung, VP, Corporate Strategy and Business Development