Fun with Waste: A boat made from plastic waste

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The FlipFlopi Project is an ambitious initiative with an aim to inspire positive change to support the global movement against plastic pollution.

In June 2016 the founders of the FlipFlopi Project decided to try and build a boat entirely from plastic collected on beaches and roadsides in Kenya to show the potential of ‘already-used’ plastic. And two years later, using over ten tonnes of plastic waste and 30,000 re-purposed flip flops – they succeeded. 

The world’s first recycled boat gets its name, Flipiflopi, from the 30,000 recycled flip-flops used to make its rainbow-colored hull. The FlipFlopi Project was co-founded by Kenyan tour operator Ben Morrison, and the 9 meters long multi-masted boat was built by master craftsmen Ali Skanda, and a team of volunteers using more than 10,000 tones of recycled plastic. The boat has already sailed 500 km from Lamu to Zanzibar earlier this year and it is continuing to tour around the world.

The goal of the project and is to convince people that single use plastic does not make sense and that it can be given a valuable second life. The boat is currently embarking on a number of expeditions around the Indian Ocean.

BERQ RNG signs funding agreement with Suske Capital Inc.

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BERQ RNG, an Ontario-based company in the renewable natural gas sector, recently signed a funding agreement with Suske Capital Inc.. Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies collaborate in the development of renewable natural gas projects.

The worldwide market for biogas expected to reach $35 billion in the next 5 years. In North America, there are only 2,000 sites producing biogas, compared to over 10,000 sites in Europe. North America has substantial future potential in the renewable natural gas space, as biogas flaring is a significant source of GHG emissions, and an opportunity exists to capture and condition this valuable resource.

BERQ RNG is positioning itself to be an important niche player in the North American RNG market. The company will have the ability to finance, design, build, and operate RNG systems.

The President and Chief Development Officers of BERQ RNG, Bas Van Berkel, has 20 years experience in developing infrastructure and energy projects including being a founder of StormFisher Environmental Ltd. He has a M.Sc. in civil engineering and a MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University.

Suske Capital Inc. is a Canadian boutique private equity firm that invests in real estate, finance, emerging technology, alternative energy and healthcare.  Suske’s Capital’s main business is the developing and operating senior housing. The key focus of Suske Capital is value creation and the company has developed a reputation for earning industry-leading returns for its co-investment partners. The company takes an active-ownership approach by investing its own time, money and expertise to grow its portfolio companies. 

 

Where will our next diverted tonne come from? Diversion with a purpose

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

Provincial diversion rates have largely stalled in the past five years, and in fact, is trending downwards for the first time in more than two decades. The reason for this stagnation is heavily debated – some point to the proliferation of light weight packaging, while others suggest municipal inefficiency and lack of applicable legislation. Whatever the cause, the reality is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to divert “the marginal tonne”- where will our next diverted tonne come from? What will it cost? And what will be the environmental, economic and social benefit?

What makes this issue particularly salient is that municipalities across Canada continue to set lofty diversion targets as a first step towards achieving a circular, zero waste economy.

The next tonne will not come from printed paper and packaging (Blue Box)

While Ontario’s Blue Box program has been an enormous success and should be heralded as a pioneering initiative with respect to recycling and stewardship, it is unlikely that future increases in recycling and diversion rates will come from Blue Box materials.

Much of this can be attributed to the “evolving tonne” of what we find in the Blue Box – increasingly, packaging producers are moving towards light weight, composite plastics, while generation of printed paper has fallen precipitously since the early 2000s. Infrastructure for the recovery of printed paper and packaging was largely designed around “core materials” -newsprint, OCC/OBB, Metals, Glass and PET/HDPE. As a result, municipalities have struggled to adapt to rapid changes in the packaging mix, resulting in rising operational costs and stagnant recycling rates. As shown in Figure 1, net costs for the program have more than doubled in the past 15 years, while recycling rates peaked in 2012, and have trended flat (or downwards) since. 

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To make a long story short – Ontario has essentially maxed out on what we are able to economically recover. Recycling rates for “core materials” are in excess of 90%, and households are already doing a great job of diverting materials that they readily recognize as being recyclable. While it is possible that future increases in diversion may come from composite/light-weight materials, doing so would have an enormous financial impact on the system. At a certain point, we have to ask ourselves, is recycling these materials worth it?

Organics is the next target waste stream

Given that future increases in diversion are unlikely to come from the Blue Box, the next logical choice would be to target the organics stream. While Green Bin programs have been adopted in several municipalities in both Ontario and across Canada, there is a significant opportunity to increase diversion (and achieve waste reduction) through initiatives that keep organics out of landfills (food waste avoidance, source reduction etc.)

Ontario has already signaled their intention to make organics a top priority moving forward, considering options such as an organics landfill ban, and encouraging the development of organics processing infrastructure. However, developing the requisite collection and processing infrastructure to divert organics is a resource and time intensive pursuit. While the organics stream is likely (and should be) where future diversion is likely to come from in Ontario, it is time for the province to think beyond the Blue and Green Box, and examine how to achieve incremental diversion through non-conventional waste streams

Textiles and Furniture – A Missed Opportunity

Textiles

At present, there are no legislative mandate for municipalities to manage textile waste. As a result, most municipalities across both Ontario and Canada do not include textiles as part of their diversion programs, largely due to a lack of both collection and processing infrastructure.

Textile waste is estimated to make up between 5-10% of the overall waste stream, with more than 1 billion pounds of textile waste going to Ontario landfill sites every year. As a result, it seems prudent that municipalities identify ways to divert this material from landfills, as it represents a significant missed opportunity.

Textiles, unlike most other waste streams, are a high value commodity, with numerous organizations from across the for profit/not for profit sector collecting used textiles. Despite the absence of a legislative mandate, service providers compete to collect textiles due to the potential financial incentive. Given that non municipal actors are willing to manage end of life textiles, what role can municipalities play in facilitating this collection in a way that maximizes both environmental and economic outcomes?

Municipal Branding

Unlike other waste streams, convenience is not the most significant predictor of household participation. This finding is atypical to any other waste stream (such as WEEE, or PP&P), as households have a “value attachment” associated with their used clothing. As such, households indicate a very strong preference for ensuring that their donations go to a cause they personally identify with (charitable, social, environmental etc.).

The primary impediment to household participation results from uncertainty surrounding the “outcome” of their donation. This uncertainty is attributed to the presence of charity masqueraders (for profit textile collectors), who deceptively brand themselves in a way to suggest that they are a charity. Many of these organizations lack transparency with respect to the destination of the material, or what is being done with the proceeds from the donation. This confusion is sufficient to deter households from participating in diversion activity. Stated alternatively, households would rather throw their textiles in the garbage, than donate their items to duplicitous textile collectors.

To specifically address this uncertainty, municipalities should designate preferred textile collectors within the community (using municipal branding on bins, or some other form of official recognition). This branding/recognition clearly communicates to residents that “approved collectors” are adhering to best practices in funding transparency, accessibility and service standards. The intent of this municipal vetting process is to reduce consumer uncertainty regarding both the collector of the material, and the destination of the donation.

Environmental Benefits

Given the sheer quantity of textiles that are ending up in landfills, increasing diversion rates will have a significant environmental benefits. The environmental impact from diverting 10,000T of textiles are shown in figure 2 below: 

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Keep in mind that there is an estimated 250,000T of used textiles available for collection each year in Ontario – diverting even a fraction of this material will help both municipalites and the province achieve carbon reduction and diversion goals.

Economic Benefits

The economic impacts of designating preferred collectors transfers all end of life management costs onto the service provider. Municipalities and retailers do not bare any direct costs – in fact, for every tonne diverted, municipalities save money through avoided landfilling and processing costs. The value of textiles as a commodity results in a self-sustaining collection infrastructure that negates the need for cost recovery schemes such as extended producer responsibility (EPR). This helps minimize the administrative burden of developing an EPR program, and allows for an approach that can be readily replicated in jurisdictions across Canada.

Social Benefits

While numerous textile collectors are presently operating in the space – the social impact of used textile collection is unique to an approach that designates charitable/non-profit as a preferred collector.

Organizations such as Diabetes Canada, Salvation Army etc. utilize the proceeds of textile collection to develop and deliver programs that promote health and well-being for Ontarians.

As an example, in 2018, Diabetes Canada generated more than 10 million dollars from used textile collection, with 100% of those proceeds going into diabetes research and other support programs.

Furniture

Much like textiles, there is no prescriptive legislation for how furniture waste should be managed. In most instances, households bare the physical and financial responsibility for transporting furniture waste to landfills, and will often rely on “junk” collectors to provide this service.

While furniture waste generation is highly variable (depending on locality, season etc.), a review of Ontario waste audits suggests that furniture and white good waste makes up approximately 5% of the overall waste stream, representing approximately 125,000 tonnes of material annually.

However, unlike textiles, end of life furniture does not have a value (or at the very least, it is highly dependent on the item, and site/situation specific factors). As such, collectors have to be financially incented, with the generator (in most cases the household) paying to have items removed and sent to landfill.

Municipalities have traditionally played a limited role in managing these items, but what role can a municipality play in not only supporting keeping these items out of landfills, but maximizing social and environmental outcomes as well?

Charitable Initiatives – The Furniture Bank Case Study

Furniture Bank is a Toronto based charity and social enterprise that helps marginalized and at risk families furnish their homes. Furniture bank accepts gently used furniture and other household items, distributing them to families in need.

This initiative helps divert more than 1500 tonnes of material from Toronto landfills annually, but perhaps more importantly, serves more than 10,000 local clients in need on an annual basis.

In strictly economic terms, the City of Toronto benefits through avoided landfill tipping fee costs (as well as collection costs for large, bulky items), while the province benefits through the provision of a social service to marginalized communities (without incurring a direct cost).

Since 2010, furniture bank has diverted almost 10,000T of furniture/household wares from landfills, which has had an enormous environmental impact for Ontario (shown in figure 3): 

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Given that the vast majority of furniture waste (as noted earlier, in excess of 125,000 tonnes) is ending up in our landfills, there is an enormous opportunity not only to increase diversion rates, but achieve a truly sustainable outcome. 

Leveraging organizations such as Furniture Bank (to serve as a used furniture collector) provides a rare opportunity to address all three pillars of a sustainable waste management program. We are able to increase diversion from landfills (environment), while transferring costs away from local government (economic) and simultaneously support social impact initiatives (social).

As noted earlier, research suggests that Ontarians express a strong desire to support social initiatives and charities through waste donations (used textiles, furniture etc.). In a two year study conducted by York University, households were more than twice as likely to donate their used materials to a designated charitable collector. 

Diversion with a purpose

Waste management (at least in a Canadian context) has historically not been seen through the lens of social sustainability. It is largely seen as a service provided by municipalities, to help keep material out of landfills and promote circularity.

However, as we look to increase diversion rates, we have to ask ourselves two questions: 1) Where will the next diverted tonne come from? And 2) What do I want achieve by diverting more material?

As noted earlier, conventional means and mediums of diversion (i.e. Blue Box) have been exhausted – the next diverted tonne is not likely to come from newsprint or cardboard, but from organics, textiles and furniture.

In addition to finding new opportunities to divert material, what are we trying to achieve by doing so? Is it good enough just to keep material out of landfills, or should we seek to identify ways to maximize economic and social outcomes as well?

This article hopes to highlight that it is possible to “divert with a purpose” – municipalities (and the province) can play a critical role in supporting waste collectors that have a mission beyond “managing waste”, and look to improve the lives and well-being of Ontarians.

The opportunity isn’t just about the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material not currently being diverted, but the thousands people that benefit through strategic prioritization of material streams and waste collectors.

About the Author

Calvin LAKHAN, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior. Calvin has worked as both a policy planner for the MOECC and as a consultant on projects for Stewardship Ontario, Multi Material Stewardship Manitoba, and Ontario Electronic Stewardship. Calvin currently sits on the editorial board for Advances in Recycling and Waste Management, and as a reviewer for Waste Management, Resources Conservation and Recycling and Journal of Environmental Management

Windsor-Essex Recycling Success Story

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The Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority (EWSWA) is one of the few municipalities in North America that has had minimal impact from the recycled material bans issued in Asia. The secret to its success is due to dealing exclusively with North American processors.

The EWSWA is the governmental agency charged with the responsibility of providing an integrated solid waste management system for the County of Essex and the City of Windsor in Ontario. Windsor is directly across the Detroit River from the City of Detroit. The City of Windsor and County of Essex has a combined population of 393,000.

The Authority generates revenue through the sale of recyclable materials. The more materials recycled – the more revenue there is to offset the waste management system costs.

In an interview with the CBC, Cathy Copot-Nepsy, the EWSWA manager of waste diversion, stated, “EWSWA has been working strategically for years to get established in the domestic market. [This] has allowed us to be one step ahead of all the other recycling plants who have been sending it overseas.”

In the CBC interview, Ms. Copot-Nepsy did admit the EWSWA was not entirely insulated from the Asian ban on recyclables. With more North American municipalities looking for local processors of recyclables, an over saturated domestic market has meant that EWSWA had to reduce the contaminants in the recyclables it sold to processors.

The residential recycling program in Essex Windsor is two stream – container materials and paper materials. Every recycling truck has two compartments (one for containers and one for paper). The materials are delivered to two different facilities (one building for containers and another building for paper).

EWSWA is expanding it public education program to reduce contamination of the recyclables that are received at the material recycling facilities (MRFs). It has also added an optical sorter at its fibre plant.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/municipalities-recycling-windsor-step-1.5092863

Ontario: Use of Excess Funds from Stewardship Programs

The Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MOECP) recently issued new directions regarding the use of surplus funds remaining from the wind up of Ontario Tire Stewardship and Ontario Electronic Stewardship. The Ontario Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority has extended consultations on the Wind Up Plan for the two stewardship organizations.

Tires

As a result of a ruling by the Canada Revenue Agency, the amount of surplus funds held by Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) will be more significant than what was anticipated at the time RPRA approved the Wind-Up Plan.

The Minister issued a letter directing the OTS to amend its Wind-Up Plan to establish a program for the return of the surplus funds they hold to tire consumers. In order to comply with the Minister’s direction, OTS will be holding consultations on options for managing surplus funds.

Electronics

RPRA has been directed by the Minister to conduct additional consultations on Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s (OES) Wind-Up Plan. The additional consultations will seek feedback on options to ensure that OES’s surplus funds be used for the benefit of Ontario consumers; for example, through a consumer rebate program.

As a result of this direction, RPRA incorporated this topic into our remaining consultation sessions on the OES Wind-Up Plan held on April 9 and April 10. All consultation materials, including the presentation and webinar recording, are available on our website. RPRA has extended the deadline to provide feedback on the Wind-Up Plan to Thursday, April 25 to accommodate this new direction. Feedback will be accepted through the online survey or via email to consultations@rpra.ca.

City of Hamilton to bid on operation of its own Central composting facility in 2020

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The City of Hamilton plans on making a bid to takeover the operation of the City’s central composting facility (CCF) when the existing contract with a private contractor expires in December 2020.

The existing private contractor, Aim Environmental Group, has been operating the City-owned facility under contract to the since 2006. The CCF takes in about 70,000 tonnes of source separated organics (SSO) from the City of Hamilton, Halton Region, and Simcoe County annually.

AIM Environmental Group is well known for facility design while working with domestic and international partners to deliver award winning compost systems. Through internal and external experts, AIM designs, constructs, and operates municipal composting facility. Besides, the City of Hamilton, municipalities that are customers of AIM include the City of Calgary, the City of Guelph, Halifax Regional Municipality, Halton Region, the City of Waterloo, and Simcoe County.

Hamilton City Councillors wanted a City bid to be included in the next operations contract for the CCF and passed a motion that will allow the city to create a separate in-house bid team to make a proposal to take over the contract of the facility’s operations.

In an effort to encourage private companies to bid on the operation of the City-owned CCF in 2020, the city will separate its bidding process with the public issued tender for operation.

Public Works General Manager Dan McKinnon said the city will make sure there is no biased tender process. He said the city has the experience in separating its bidding process with public issued tenders. McKinnon said an “ethical” wall is created, and a “fairness” monitor oversees the process.

It’s not the first time the city has participated in its own bid process. Dan McKinnon, general manager of public works, said the city uses a third-party independent monitor to make sure the bid process is fair.

In June of 2018, the city shut down the facility in response to numerous odour complaints related to the compost facility. The odours were caused, in part, by updated Ontario regulations that stated that compost had to have a minimum moisture content of 40 per cent during the curing process.

During the shutdown, carbon filters were added to the air emission outlets of the CCF and stacks were extended to disperse air emissions. An odour neutralizer misting system was also installed at the fence line. The CCF reopened in February of this year.

B.C. Municipality rewards community groups for waste reduction initiatives

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The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), located on the southern mainland coast, across Georgia Strait from Vancouver Island in British Columbia, has been holding a competition since 2015 as a means of encouraging waste reduction.

The annual contest is open to Sunshine Coast based community groups and associations, non-profit societies, registered charitable organizations, and school groups that will reduce waste in the region.

The program has a total of $5,000 available for financial assistance on winning projects.

Project applications must include a plan for measuring and reporting the amount of waste diverted from the landfill. The Waste Reduction Initiatives Program was introduced to support the initiatives of the SCRD’s Solid Waste Management Plan.

Project categories considered for the Waste Reduction Initiatives Program (WRIP) include:

  • Community reuse and repair
  • Composting
  • Construction and demolition waste reduction, reuse and recycling
  • Food waste reduction
  • Green waste reduction
  • Recycling initiatives

In 2018, Serendipity Child Care received funding under the contest. The funding received through WRIP was used by the organization educating children and families on composting and waste reduction.

In 2017, six organizations received funding for projects as part of the Waste Reduction Initiatives Program (WRIP).

  • North Thormanby Community Association – Implementation of a community composting program
  • Roberts Creek Community School – A community composter project in partnership with local businesses.
  • St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church – An on-site composting program for the food bank and nearby organizations.
  • Sunshine Coast Repair Café – Launch of monthly repair cafés to Sechelt and Pender Harbour (currently monthly in Gibsons)
  • West Sechelt Elementary – Launch of a school composting program
  • West Howe Sound Community Association – Expansion of the association’s mobile community composting initiative.
Representatives from Organizations that received funding as part of the SCRD’s WRIP in 2017 (Photo Credit: SCRD)

Applications for WRIP opened on Monday April 15, 2019 and all applications must be received by midnight on Friday, May 24, 2019. Successful applicants will be announced in June. Projects must be completed, including a final report, by December 31, 2019.

Ecolomondo secures $32 million loan to finance Thermal Decomposition Facility

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Ecolomondo Environmental (Hawkesbury) Inc., a subsidiary of Ecolomondo Corporation (TSXV: ECM)  recently announced that it entered into a loan agreement for $32.1 million in project financing with Export Development Canada (EDC), the proceeds of which are to be used to build the Company’s new, first of its kind turnkey Thermal Decomposition (TDP) facility that will be located in the Town of Hawkesbury, Ontario.

The Town of Hawkebury, where the TDP facility will be built is located on the Ottawa River, half way between the Cities of Ottawa and Montreal.

Once built and fully operational, this turnkey TDP facility is expected to process a minimum of 14,000 tons of tire waste per year and to produce 5,300 tons of recycled carbon black, 42,700 barrels of oil, 1,800 tons of steel and 1,600 tons of process gas.

Management now expects to break ground by June 2019 and to begin commissioning of the TDP facility in the first quarter of 2020, as originally scheduled.

“Ecolomondo is proud to conclude this loan agreement for this innovative project and proud to do so with an extremely professional organization such as Export Development Canada. EDC will be a key player in the commercialization of our cleantech proprietary technology and in doing so EDC is supporting the development of Ecolomondo’s future expansion both in Canada and overseas”, said Elio Sorella, President and CEO, Ecolomondo.

About EDC

Export Development Canada (EDC) is a financial Crown corporation dedicated to helping Canadian companies of all sizes succeed on the world stage. As international risk experts, EDC equips Canadian companies with the tools they need – the trade knowledge, financing solutions, investments, insurance, and connections – to take on the world with confidence. Underlying all EDC support is a commitment to sustainable and responsible business.

About Ecolomondo Corporation

Ecolomondo is a cleantech Canadian company that is commercializing its waste-to-products technology. The Thermal Decomposition Process (TDP) converts hydrocarbon waste into marketable commodity end-products, namely carbon black substitute, oil, gas and steel. Technologies such as Ecolomondo’s are expected to play an important role in resource recovery needed in today’s circular economy.

The Company’s main revenues will come from the sale of TDP turnkey facilities and royalties from their operations. TDP facilities will generate revenues from the sale of end-products, tipping fees and carbon credits. Ecolomondo’s first focus is to market TDP turnkey facilities that use scrap tires as a feedstock, because scrap tires yield end-products with a higher commercial value, especially the recycled carbon black.

Waste Management Inc. to acquire Advanced Disposal for $2.9 billion

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Waste Management, Inc. (NYSE: WM) and Advanced Disposal Services, Inc. (NYSE: ADSW) recently today that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which a subsidiary of Waste Management will acquire all outstanding shares of Advanced Disposal for $33.15 per share in cash, representing a total enterprise value of $4.9 billion when including approximately $1.9 billion of Advanced Disposal’s net debt.

Waste Management, based in Houston, Texas, is one of North America’s largest waste management companies and provides provides collection, transfer, disposal services, and recycling and resource recovery to approximately 20 million customers. It is also a developer, operator, and owner of landfill gas-to-energy facilities in the United States.

Advanced Waste, headquartered in Florida, is considered to be the fourth largest waste disposal company in the United States. It has over 3 million residential, commercial, and industrial customers, including over 800 municipalities primarily in 16 states in the Eastern half of the United States. Advanced Disposal’s solid waste network includes 94 collection operations, 73 transfer stations, 41 landfills, and 22 owned or operated recycling facilities. In 2018, Advanced Waste had revenues of $1.56 billion, adjusted EBITDA of $427 million, and approximately 6,000 employees.

The transaction, which was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, is expected to close by the first quarter of 2020, subject to the satisfaction of customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals and approval by a majority of the holders of Advanced Disposal’s outstanding common shares.

Waste Management to Acquire Advanced Disposal (Graphic: Business Wire)

If approved, the acquisition is set to go down as one of the waste industry’s largest deals in recent history. In terms of consolidating power, it would join the likes of mergers between Republic Services and Allied Waste in 2008, Waste Connections and Progressive Waste Solutions in 2016, and GFL Environmental and Waste Industries in 2018.

Ontario: Fine for Illegal Storage of Waste

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks (MOECP) recently fined an individual $3,000 for the storage of hazardous waste at an unapproved waste disposal site.

The conviction relates to permitting a site to be used for the disposal of hazardous waste at a location that is not a ministry approved waste disposal site.

During the period beginning on or about June 8, 2017 and ending on or about July 19, 2017, Thai Duy Bui leased a public storage unit at a location in the City of Toronto. Mr. Bui stopped making storage unit rental payments in 2017 and abandoned the contents of the storage unit, which were then sold via an online auction.

The contents subsequently had to be identified so that the buyer could arrange for disposal. It was identified as a combination of liquid and solid wastes, characterized as corrosive, ignitable and reactive.

The Ministry’s Investigations and Enforcement Branch (IEB) investigated and laid one charge which resulted in one conviction.

Thai Duy Bui was convicted of one violation under the Environmental Protection Act and was fined $3,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $750 with 12 months to pay the fine.