Where does my Coffee Pod Go? Emissions Impacts of Pod Recycling

,

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

I want to preface this article by saying that I do not have any of Nespresso’s actual sales, collection or logistics data. All information used in this modeling is based on publicly available sources – if anybody has access to better data, I would be happy to re-run the analysis.

Coffee pod waste has become a particularly contentious issue as of late. The ubiquity of the coffee pod, coupled with its apparent difficulties being managed at end of life, has forced pod producers to develop packaging that can be readily recycled or composted in existing waste management systems.

Nespresso has proven to be a pioneer in this space, developing a readily recyclable aluminum pod, and investing in a “take back” infrastructure that allows consumers to return used coffee pods back to Nespresso. It is truly a novel solution to a growing problem – aluminum is not only readily recyclable, but offers a significant environmental benefit when comparing recycled vs. virgin sources (According to EcoInvent, recycling one tonne of aluminum using an Ontario energy grid mix abates 10.1 tonnes of carbon).

So all is good with the world, and we should embrace Nespresso as our sustainable pod manufacturer of choice? Not so fast….

Where the university became interested in the issue is when learning about Nespresso’s “take back” program in partnership with Canada Post. As per: https://www.nespresso.com/ca/en/recycling-process-red-bag, households are provided a bag to store used Nespresso capsules. Once they have filled the bag (with approximately 30 capsules), households can return this bag to a Canada Post office, where it will be delivered to 1 of 13 recycling facilities across the country that are equipped to compost used coffee grounds and recycle the aluminum. A separate “take back” program is available for commercial customers who operate in office buildings and retail spaces.

Being the keen researchers that we are, we decided to put this program to the test. After 10 days of coffee consumption (averaging approximately 3 pods per day between two people), we found that the average used capsule (net of coffee grounds) weighed 5.7 grams, and a “full” drop off bag weighed a shade over 280 grams. Once the bag was full, this bag was dropped off at a Canada Post office – it wasn’t readily apparent which facility this bag would be shipped to (which turns out, is the million dollar question).

Based on the materials used in the capsule and the bag (aluminum and LDPE film respectively), we calculated that the emissions credit (attributable to recycling) equaled:

Emissions Credit Single Pod Recycling (Aluminum) 0.00005706 TCO2e Emissions Credit Collection Bag (LDPE Film) 0.000004896 TCO2e Emissions Credit Per Consumer Bag Return 0.001716606 TCO2e

This is actually a pretty compelling finding – for every full bag of capsules returned to Nespresso, the emissions savings attributable to recycling is 0.001716606 TCO2e . When we think about the number of pods sold into the Canadian market – estimated in the hundreds of millions per calendar year – the potential environmental benefit from coffee pod recycling is enormous…… until we factor in the transportation emissions for getting those pods back to Nespresso.

The emissions impacts of waste collection is a significant component when calculating the life cycle impact of a particular waste management option. For curbside recyclable and waste collection, a specially configured truck will go from house to house, and when full, return to the transfer station/depot to empty it’s material before redeploying to the road. The efficiency of this approach is in having a “critical mass” of material (within a specified geographical boundary), that only requires collection when sufficient waste has been generated.

Going back to our Nespresso example, the university shipped a 280g bag back to a recycling facility via Canada Post. Assuming that Canada Post uses a standard parcel delivery vehicle using petrol, 0.00012 TCO2e of carbon are emitted for every kilometer traveled (EcoInvent). Using the above value, if our bag of used pods traveled more than 15km, the emissions impacts of transport supersede the environmental benefit of recycling (0.0018TCO2E transport emissions vs. 0.001716606TCO2e recycling credit)

With that being said, it is not likely that our package of used coffee pods was the only thing in that Canada Post truck (transport emissions need to be distributed across all items shipped), but it raises the questions of “How many shipments of pods are we making?” and “Where are we shipping those pods to?”

While I do not have the sales data for Nespresso, I would safely say that at least 100 million Aluminum pods are sold to Canadian households every year. Given that each of the pre-paid shipping bags can store approximately 30 used pods, that is 3.3 million bags that ultimately need to be shipped back to Nespresso for recycling. That is potentially 3.3 million unique trips, across hundreds (and possibly thousands of kilometers) to recycle something that may be doing more harm to the environment than good. The environmental viability of the approach is entirely contingent on shipping a critical mass of materials, 300 kilometers or less.

I genuinely don’t know if this is the case. Maybe households stock pile their bags and send them back only once a month? Or maybe Canada Post has hundreds of consolidation points, and only ship the bags back to Nespresso once they have sufficient materials? The point of this post is to highlight that we have to “look beyond the headlines” and ask meaningful questions about how the products we use are actually managed at their end of life.

Nespresso should be applauded for finding a recyclable alternative and innovating in a way that moves us away from single use plastic pods. However, as both consumers and decision makers, we have to perform our due diligence when evaluating whether our actions (in this case, recycling) are achieving our intended objectives (preferable environmental outcomes).


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

Cities and countries aim to slash plastic waste within a decade

, , , , ,

Written by Dr. Chelsea Rochman, Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto and Dr. Diane Orihel, Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University

If all goes well, 2030 will be quite a special year.

Global and local community leaders from more than 170 countries have pledged to “significantly reduce” the amount of single-use plastic products by 2030. Success would result in significantly less plastic pollution entering our oceans, lakes and rivers.

Today, societies around the world have a love affair with disposable plastics. Just like some love stories, this one has an unhappy ending that results in plastic bags, straws and takeout containers strewn about the global environment.

As researchers who study the contamination and effects of plastic pollution on wildlife, it would be nice if by 2030 we no longer heard about plastics showing up in the stomachs of dead whales, littering the beaches of distant islands and contaminating tap water and seafood.

Plastic doesn’t belong on the beach. Shutterstock

It is time for some good news about the environment, including stories about how cities and countries are managing plastics and other waste materials in more sustainable ways, and how children will have cleaner beaches to play on.

No reason to wait

Scientists have known about plastic pollution in our oceans for more than four decades. It is pervasive in rivers, lakes and soils too. Plastic pollution knows no boundaries, with small bits of plastic found from the equator to the poles and even on the remote slopes of the French Pyrenees mountains.

Plastic waste damages ecosystems, smothers coral reefs and fills the bellies of sea life. In the absence of action, the amount of plastic waste produced globally is predicted to triple between 2015 and 2060, to between 155 and 265 million tonnes per year.

As a welcome response, global leaders have decided to act. At the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi in March, environment ministers from around the world signed a voluntary commitment to make measurable reductions in single-use plastic products, including straws, shopping bags and other low-value plastic items that are sent to landfill after being used once.

Similar goals to deal with plastic pollution have been introduced by municipal, provincial, federal and regional governments across the globe. Non-profit organizations and industry leaders are making efforts to tackle the problem of plastic pollution. For example, Ocean Conservancy is uniting citizens and organizations around the world in cleanups to meet their goal of an ocean free of plastics by 2030, and Unilever has pledged to use 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025.

Canada joins the movement

Canada introduced the Ocean Plastics Charter at the G7 summit in 2018, committing nations to work with industry to make all plastics reusable, recyclable or recoverable by 2030. That means sending no plastic waste to landfill.

Vancouver aims to be a zero-waste city by 2040. Although the city has reduced the mass of waste going to landfill by 23 per cent since 2008, it still has a long way to go.

Ontario also has its sights on being waste-free by developing a circular economy, which means keeping materials in use for as long as possible. The province aims to cut the amount of waste sent to landfills in half by 2030, a reduction of 4.5 million tonnes, through reuse and recycling.

To propel Ontario into action, Ian Arthur, the member of the Ontario provincial parliament for Kingston and the Islands introduced a private member’s bill in March to eliminate Ontario’s use of non-recyclable single-use plastic products such as straws, coffee cups and plastic cutlery, which ultimately end up in landfills. These plastics do not feed into a circular economy.

In addition, school children in Ontario are working towards collecting 10,000 signatures on petitions to ban single-use plastics in the province.

Canadians would like to see more action against plastic waste. According to a recent poll, 90 per cent of Canadians were either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the environmental impact of plastic waste, and 82 per cent thought government should do more to reduce plastic waste.

Bye bye plastic waste

Our research, and the research of others, has found that single-use plastic products litter our beaches and coastlines, small pieces of plastics contaminate our Great Lakes and the Arctic Ocean, and microplastics are present in our sport fish and drinking water.

Ambitious global, regional and local collaborations are sorely needed to truly realize these goals. It’s time to commit to ending the love affair with disposable plastics.

Individual action does work. Quench your need for caffeine by using a reusable mug. Hydrate with water from a durable and refillable bottle. Purchase groceries that come in containers that can be reused or recycled. Plan your kid’s birthday party and your work meetings without using disposable single-use plastics.

A decade of positive habits could lead to a future where plastic is no longer waste, but valued as a material that can be reused and recycled — shifting our current paradigm to a more sustainable one that lasts far beyond 2030.



This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

About the Authors

Dr. Chelsea Rochman is an Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto. Previously, she was a David H. Smith Postdoctoral Fellow at the Aquatic Health Program at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Rochman received her PhD in a joint program with San Diego State University and UC Davis in Ecology.

Dr. Diane Orihel is an Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University, Ontario. Dr. Orihel investigates human impacts on aquatic ecosystems through large-scale, multidisciplinary and collaborative research programs. She holds a B.Sc. (Honours) in Ecology and Environmental Biology (University of British Columbia), Masters in Natural Resource Management (University of Manitoba), a PhD in Ecology (University of Alberta). She was a Banting and Liber Ero postdoctoral fellow at the University of Ottawa, and now holds the position of Queen’s National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology in the Department of Biology and School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University.

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

, ,

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

, , ,

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.

Waste-to-Energy: where now and where next?

, , , ,

Bettina Kamuk, Global Market Director, Waste to Energy at Ramboll

Waste-to-energy is the use of waste to generate energy, usually in the form of heat or electricity. In many ways it is the ultimate in renewable energy, because it recycles what we have already consumed in another form. It is, therefore, a key part of the growing ‘circular economy’.

The idea of the circular economy recognises that there is a limit to the possibilities of recycling. Even recycled goods wear out over time, and further recycling is often not possible. We therefore need a way to deal with the residual waste. We also need a way to deal with waste that is not currently recyclable or recycled. At present, worldwide most of it is sent to landfill. This not only uses valuable space, but also generates methane, a greenhouse gas.

Waste-to-energy offers an alternative—and one with a useful product at the end, in the form of energy. In other words, waste-to-energy has a double bonus for the environment: it reduces greenhouse gas emissions in two ways. First, there are fewer emissions from landfill, and second, it reduces reliance on fossil fuels.

Understanding waste-to-energy

The first incinerator was built in Nottingham, in the UK, in 1874, and the first in the US in New York in 1885. However, these early incinerators usually had little or no capacity to recover either energy or materials. Modern incinerators are able to do both. Many are used to provide heating for local sections of cities. They operate to very tight emission standards so are not polluting, and often reduce the volume of the original waste by more than 95%.

The precise volume, of course, depends on what can be recovered and reused from the ash. Technology to recover metals from ash has developed rapidly in the last few years. A new plant in Copenhagen on the island of Amager, where the Ramboll office is located, is able to recover metal particles as small as 0.5mm across. This is far better than the previous standard of 4mm and is an effective way to sort out metal that is difficult to separate manually before incineration.

Waste-to-energy around the world

At next week’s North American Waste to Energy Conference (NAWTEC), I am going to be part of a panel session on international opportunities for waste-to-energy. The idea of the panel session is to describe what is going on in waste-to-energy around the world, setting out ideas and opportunities for event participants.

Around the world, cities and countries are embracing waste-to-energy, with a number of new green-field facilities being commissioned or built. For example, estimates in Europe suggest that new waste-to-energy capacity of up to 55 mio will be needed to meet landfill directives and circular economy goals. Several Middle Eastern states, including Dubai, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, have either built or are in the process of commissioning new facilities. New facilities are also being commissioned as far apart as Lebanon, Singapore and Perth, Australia.

In South East Asia, there is a growing move towards waste-to-energy. China’s government has made a decision to move away from landfill, and has already established a number of waste-to-energy plants, mostly using Chinese technology. Thailand and Malaysia also already have waste-to-energy plants. The Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia have plans to establish plants in the foreseeable future.

Where next for waste-to-energy?

Despite these success stories, there are also parts of the world where waste-to-energy has been slower to grow, such as North America. This is partly because of lack of political will to move away from landfilling, which is perhaps what happens when you have plenty of space. It is also partly because there is less political acceptance that we need to move to a circular economy, with waste-to-energy as a key element. However, as this acceptance grows, there is huge potential in these countries too.

Today a lot of waste is still being sent to landfill or even dumped. The potential for new green-field waste-to-energy facilities is huge. Even in countries where there are already waste-to-energy facilities, old plants will eventually need replacing with modern and more energy-efficient plants. I think the future is bright for waste-to-energy, and I think there is growing acceptance that the future of the world will also be brighter for its increasing use.


About the Author

Bettina Kamuk is Global Market Director and Head of Department at Ramboll. Bettina is a highly experienced waste-to-energy project director and has been responsible for waste-to-energy projects worldwide, most recently in South East Asia and the Middle East. Currently, she is technical advisor for the National Environmental Agency (NEA) in Singapore during the development of the Integrated Waste Management Facility in Singapore planned for an annual capacity of 2 million tonnes of waste-to-energy recovery and more than 200,000 tonnes of bio-waste and recyclables for sorting. Bettina has been Board Member and Chair of the Scientific and Technical Committee for the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) and has for eight years been chairing ISWA’s Working Group on Energy Recovery.

AboutRamboll

Ramboll is a leading engineering, design and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945. The company employs 15,000 working from 300 offices in 35 countries and has especially strong representation in the Nordics, UK, North America, Continental Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific. Ramboll is at the forefront of addressing the green transition and offers a holistic approach to energy that supports the sector on the journey towards more sustainable solutions. Ramboll has more than 50 years of experience in the planning, design and implementation of energy solutions, covering the full spectrum of technologies and all parts of the value chain from planning to production, transmission and distribution. Ramboll has worked on waste-to-energy projects in 45 countries, providing consulting services for 155 new units and retrofits.

Wood ash recycling program could help save Muskoka’s forests and lakes

, , , ,

Written by James A. Donaldson, Canadian Wood Waste Recycling Business Group

Implementing a new residential wood ash program in Muskoka, Ont., to restore calcium levels in its forest soils and lakes could help replenish the area’s dwindling supply of crayfish and maple sap, according to new research co-led by York University.

Calcium levels in soil and lakes are essential for the growth of all forms of life, but the levels across central Ontario are declining due to decades of acid rain. It could take centuries for this calcium to rebuild on its own.

Researchers discovered that residential wood ash – a common household waste derived from wood-burning fireplaces and wood-fired ovens – was rich with the nutrients needed for restoring growth, including about 30 per cent calcium.

No alt text provided for this image

The study, published on March 28th, 2019 in the journal FACETS, shows that adding controlled doses of cold residential wood ash to the watershed of Muskoka’s forests could help solve the calcium decline problem and boost forest growth.

“Calcium is an essential nutrient for all living things,” said Norman Yan, a senior scholar and professor emeritus of biology in the Faculty of Science, who co-led the study. “When you suffer from low calcium, you get osteoporosis and the ecosystem can suffer from osteoporosis as well. Many scientists have called this calcium decline problem ecological osteoporosis.”

Supplementing watershed soils with calcium-rich wood ash may also improve the region’s crayfish stock, water quality, seedling regeneration and sugar maple tree production of sap, used to make maple syrup.

“Lack of calcium has slowed the growth, reproduction and development of trees in Muskoka’s forests,” said Yan, Chair of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed, a not-for-profit environmental organization that has conducted the research with York University, Dorset Environmental Science Centre and Queen’s University.

While forest programs using industrial wood ash exist in areas of Europe such as Sweden, the use of the non-industrial residential wood ash has not been researched and tested until now, said the study co-author Shakira Azan, a former postdoctoral biology student and research associate at York University.

“A lot of people in Muskoka burn wood for heat and some send it to the landfill so, by collecting and recycling their wood ash, we are diverting waste from landfills,” said Azan, an environmental project lead at Friends of the Muskoka Watershed.

No alt text provided for this image

The second phase of the research is AshMuskoka, a three-year pilot project that aims to be Canada’s first residential wood ash recycling program. The project team, which launched in January, is working on securing 200 homeowners to donate their wood ash. This fall, researchers will conduct small-scale wood ash additions to test dosage needs, develop tools to identify site-specific doses, and determine the benefits and harm of residential wood ash applications. The first test site will be three sugar bushes in Muskoka, where maple syrup producers are eager to see if the controlled doses will restore the bushes to good health and yield maple sap.

Friends of the Muskoka Watershed is working on the project with nine Canadian partners, including Trent University, the University of Victoria, Laurentian University, the Ontario Maple Syrup Producers Association, and York University’s Learning for a Sustainable Future.

About the Author

Jim A. Donaldson is the founder and CEO of Canadian Wood Waste Recycling Business Group, Canada’s leading Wood recycling, industry resource management business group. The organization brings the elite like-minded Canadian and International people, business, academia and government together to develop the “Canadian Wood recycling, Bioeconomy” as a viable eco-sustainable industry.

Jim is also the owner of Waste Reduction & Recycling Consultants Inc., a firm founded in 2009 to facilitate the emerging need by large and small corporations to outsource their environmental Waste management business requirements. Waste Reduction & Recycling Consultants is a multidisciplinary Environmental waste management consulting firm that specializes in providing a full array of environmental administrative Waste management advice AND project-specific Environmental waste management services.

Federal grants to boost LFG collection at Calgary, Regina, and Waterloo landfills

, , ,

The federal government recently provided grants to three municipal landfills in an effort to reduce methane emissions from all three. The money for the operational improvements at the landfills come from the federal government’s Low Carbon Economy Fund.

The $2 billion Low Carbon Economy Fund (LCEF) is a part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (the Framework). The Fund supports the Framework by leveraging investments in projects that will generate clean growth, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help meet or exceed Canada’s Paris Agreement commitments.

City of Calgary, Alberta

The Federal Government has committed up to $5.9 million to help Calgary’s Waste & Recycling Services reduce greenhouse gas emissions by expanding its landfill gas collection systems. The East Calgary Waste Management Facility will install new wells to collect landfill gas, distribution piping for wells, and mechanical and electrical upgrades to expand the volume of landfill gas collected.

LFG, which consists of methane and carbon dioxide (with trace amounts of other gases) gas is created as landfill waste decomposes in anaerobic conditions. The city’s vertical extraction wells then collect and convert the gas to CO2 by burning it off by a flare rather than seeping out into the atmosphere.

The City of Calgary will operate between 40 to 50 methane wells, like the one pictured here, to help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses coming from Calgary landfills. CRAIG GLOVER / CRAIG GLOVER/LONDON FREE PRESS/Q

Martin Ortiz, performance operations leader for waste and recycling services, said methane is around 25 times more harmful to the environment than CO2. He said the project will help reduce Calgary’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than 630,000 tonnes of CO2 over the lifetime of the system.

“In 2017 we gathered around 40,000 tonnes of CO2 . . . at this site, which is good news for the environment,” Ortiz said.

City of Regina, Saskatchewan

The City of Regina municipal landfill is to receive $1.3 million in federal funding to pay for and expansion of its landfill gas (LFG) collection system. Greg Kuntz, Regina’s manager of environmental services, said the money will be used to drill 30 new wells into the old landfill site.

“What we are doing is extracting that methane and burning it off on a flare so it converts the methane to carbon dioxide which is much less harmful as a greenhouse gas,” Kuntz said.

The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30 per percent. The goal of the project is to remove 30,000 tonnes of methane gas, the equivalent of taking 8,000 vehicles off the road a year.

The LFG to energy system was installed at the Regina Landfill in 2017 at a cost of approximately $5 million. The City of Regina and SaskPower entered into a 20-year power purchase agreement at the time operations began. SaskPower handles the sales of electricity produced by the facility. The facility generates approximately $1 million in revenue for the City annually.

Regional of Waterloo

The federal government is investing up to $1.5 million, subject to a formal funding agreement, to help the Region of Waterloo increase gas collection efficiency at the Waterloo Landfill facility.

This investment will help expand the Region’s existing landfill gas capture system, which prevents greenhouse gases like methane from being released into the air, and instead uses them to generate renewable energy. The new project will increase gas collection efficiency, further reduce carbon pollution, and increase the generation of renewable electricity at the Waterloo Landfill facility.

Capturing of additional landfill gas will result in additional gas flows and improved quality, which helps increase renewable electricity generation in the Region of Waterloo.

The Waterloo landfill opened in 1972. It consists of 71 hectares of dedicated landfill space which has a maximum capacity of 15 million tonnes of waste. The landfill is expected to reach capacity near 2030. The Region of Waterloo has already started researching future waste management options through its Waste Master Plan process.

Pyrowave, Polystyvert and GreenMantra receive National Attention for Polystyrene Recycling

, , , ,

Emily Chung, Science and Technology Journalist at the CBC, recently wrote a profile article on three Canadian cleantech companies – Pyrowave, Polystyvert, and Green Mantra – that recycle polystyrene.

What is Polystyrene?

Polystyrene is a versatile plastic used to make a wide variety of consumer products. As a hard, solid plastic, it is often used in products that require clarity, such as food packaging and laboratory ware. When combined with various colorants, additives or other plastics, polystyrene is used to make appliances, electronics, automobile parts, toys, gardening pots and equipment and more.

Polystyrene also is made into a foam material, called expanded polystyrene (EPS) or extruded polystyrene (XPS), which is valued for its insulating and cushioning properties. Foam polystyrene can be more than 95 percent air and is widely used to make home and appliance insulation, lightweight protective packaging, surfboards, foodservice and food packaging, automobile parts, roadway and roadbank stabilization systems and more.

Only 35 per cent of Canadian communities accept styrofoam in their recycling programs, according to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.

The word Styrofoam™ is often used to describe expanded polystyrene (EPS)foam; however, ‘Styrofoam’ is actually a trademarked term for closed-cell extrudedpolystyrene foam made for thermal insulation and craft applications.

The main problem with polystyrene is it’s not cost-effective to collect a material that’s so bulky and light, and breaks apart so easily, contaminating other recyclables. And there aren’t a lot of buyers once it’s collected. Many jurisdictions across Canada have to effectively pay companies to take it.

A recent report from the Canadian Chamber of Commerce found that, in 2012, 80 per cent of styrofoam waste in Canada, more than 6,500 tonnes, ended up in landfills or waterways.

That’s because most communities don’t recycle it — just 35 per cent accept polystyrene in their recycling programs, according to the Canadian Plastics Industry Association.

It’s even worse in the United States, which recycled less than four per cent of its polystyrene containers and packaging in 2012, the Environmental Protection Agency reports.

Pyrowave

Pyrowave has its Ontario headquarters in Oakville and its R&D facility in Montreal. The Pyrowave technology is a cost effective Waste-to-Feedstock technology that recycles mixed plastic waste. The company’s unique approach uses a local conversion that unzips plastics back to their initial constituents that can later be re-used to make virgin polymers and packaging.

Pyrowave’s patented technology is Catalytic Microwave Depolymerization (CMD) which uses microwaves to perform fast de-polymerization of mixed plastics with small-scale modular units capable of treating 400-1,200 tons/year on-site. The equipment converts mixed plastics with or without food contamination into predominantly oil containing valuable waxes and monomers. The products are sold to chemical companies that re-use the monomers and waxes for FDA compliant applications and therefore cost effectively closes the loop of polymers life cycle

At Pyrowave’s plant, microwaves are used to break polystyrene molecules down into styrene. (Pyrowave)

The machine can process between 50 and 100 kg per cycle and each cycle lasts 30 minutes. The modular approach allows the operator to operate many units.

Pyrowave estimates its recycling process can produce polystyrene with a tenth of the energy and half the greenhouse gas emissions of polystyrene made directly from oil, and says it can sell its styrene at a price that’s competitive with “virgin” styrene produced from crude oil.

Polystyvert

Polystyvert is a Montreal-based company that has developed a breakthrough technology for recycling polystyrene, using a dissolution process that works on all types of polystyrene: expanded, extruded and injection-moulded. The resulting recycled product is of very high quality and can easily be re-extruded or re-injected, allowing many applications to incorporate 100% recycled materials.

Polystyvert’s recycled polystyrene retains the same properties as virgin polystyrene, since the solvent does not modify the polymer in any way. Moreover, the processes are carried out at a low temperature, which keeps the molecular chain of polystyrene intact. This enables Polystyvert to attain a high-quality recycled product.

The company supplies solvent-containing concentrators to companies that can be placed on-site. By dissolving styrofoam before transportation, it says it can put 10 times more styrofoam in the same truck.

Once dissolved, it can be resolidified with another solvent, and washed and filtered multiple times to remove contaminants before being reformed into polystyrene pellets. Those can be turned back into styrofoam.

The solvents can be recycled and reused repeatedly, and so can the styrofoam itself.

Polystyvert opened a Montreal demonstration plant in June 2018 that can process 125 kilograms of polystyrene per hour or 800 tonnes a year. It gets its polystyrene from both municipalities and companies such as fridge distributors.

The polystyrene it produces is currently being sold to a company that makes insulation.

GreenMantra

GreenMantra is located in Brantford, Ontario. The company produces value-added synthetic waxes, polymer additives, and other chemicals from recycled plastics. The company uses its proprietary and patented catalytic depolymerization technology to convert polystyrene and other plastics into materials that are more valuable than the original plastic.

The company claims to be the first in the world to upcycle post-consumer and post-industrial recycled plastics into synthetic polymers and additives that meet specific performance requirements for industrial applications.

GreenMantra manufacturing facility in Brantford, Ontario

Unlike Pyrowave and Polystyvert, which are getting their raw materials for free, GreenMantra says it is choosing to actually pay money for some of the waste polystyrene it will be getting from companies and municipalities.

Next Steps

At the moment, Pyrowave, Polystyvert and GreenMantra are operating on a relatively small scale as they take measurements and tweak their technology. Polystyvert, for one, says it’s getting more offers of free styrofoam waste than it can handle.

Piling Up: How China’s Ban on Importing Waste Has Stalled Global Recycling

, , , , , ,

Written by Cheryl Katz, Independent Science Writer

This article has been republished with the permission of Yale Environment 360, a publication of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The original posting can be found at Yale Environment 360 website.


It has been a year since China jammed the works of recycling programs around the world by essentially shutting down what had been the industry’s biggest market. China’s “National Sword” policy, enacted in January 2018, banned the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century. The move was an effort to halt a deluge of soiled and contaminated materials that was overwhelming Chinese processing facilities and leaving the country with yet another environmental problem — and this one not of its own making.

In the year since, China’s plastics imports have plummeted by 99 percent, leading to a major global shift in where and how materials tossed in the recycling bin are being processed. While the glut of plastics is the main concern, China’s imports of mixed paper have also dropped by a third. Recycled aluminum and glass are less affected by the ban.

Globally more plastics are now ending up in landfills, incinerators, or likely littering the environment as rising costs to haul away recyclable materials increasingly render the practice unprofitable. In England, more than half-a-million more tons of plastics and other household garbage were burned last year. Australia’s recycling industry is facing a crisis as the country struggles to handle the 1.3 million-ton stockpile of recyclable waste it had previously shipped to China.

Communities across the U.S. have curtailed collections or halted their recycling programs entirely.

Across the United States, local governments and recycling processors are scrambling to find new markets. Communities from Douglas County, Oregon to Hancock, Maine, have curtailed collections or halted their recycling programs entirely, which means that many residents are simply tossing plastic and paper into the trash. Some communities, like Minneapolis, stopped accepting black plastics and rigid #6 plastics like disposable cups. Others, like Philadelphia, are now burning the bulk of their recyclables at a waste-to-energy plant, raising concerns about air pollution.

Even before China’s ban, only 9 percent of discarded plastics were being recycled, while 12 percent were burned. The rest were buried in landfills or simply dumped and left to wash into rivers and oceans. Without China to process plastic bottles, packaging, and food containers — not to mention industrial and other plastic waste — experts warn it will exacerbate the already massive waste problem posed by our throwaway culture. The planet’s load of nearly indestructible plastics — more than 8 billion tons have been produced worldwide over the past six decades — continues to grow.

“Already, we’ve been seeing evidence in the past year of the accumulation of plastic waste in countries that are dependent on exporting,” says the University of Georgia’s Amy Brooks, a Ph.D. student in engineering and lead author of a recent study on the impacts of China’s import ban. “We’ve seen increased cost to consumers, closure of recycling facilities, and ultimately decreased plastic waste diversion.”

The recycling crisis triggered by China’s ban could have an upside, experts say, if it leads to better solutions for managing the world’s waste, such as expanding processing capacities in North America and Europe, and spurring manufacturers to make their products more easily recyclable. Above all, experts say it should be a wake-up call to the world on the need to sharply cut down on single-use plastics.

Over the coming decade, as many as 111 million tons of plastics will have to find a new place to be processed or otherwise disposed of as a result of China’s ban, according to Brooks and University of Georgia engineering professor Jenna Jambeck. However, the places trying to take up some of the slack in 2018 tended to be lower-income countries, primarily in Southeast Asia, many of which lack the infrastructure to properly handle recyclables. Many of those countries were quickly overwhelmed by the volume and have also now cut back on imports.

Prior to China’s ban, 95 percent of the plastics collected for recycling in the European Union and 70 percent in the U.S. were sold and shipped to Chinese processors. There, they were turned into forms to be repurposed by plastic manufacturers. Favorable rates for shipping in cargo vessels that carried Chinese consumer goods abroad and would otherwise return to China empty, coupled with the country’s low labor costs and high demand for recycled materials, made the practice profitable.

“Everyone was sending their materials to China because their contamination standard was low and their pricing was very competitive,” says Johnny Duong, acting chief operating officer of California Waste Solutions, which handles recycling for Oakland and San Jose. Like most municipal recycling programs, those cities contract with Duong’s company to collect and sort recyclable waste at its materials recovery facility, where they are baled and sent to end-market processors. Before the ban, Duong says, his company sold around 70 percent of its recyclables to China. Now, that has fallen to near zero.

China’s action came after many recycling programs had transitioned from requiring consumers to separate paper, plastics, cans, and bottles to today’s more common “single stream,” where it all goes into the same blue bin. As a result, contamination from food and waste has risen, leaving significant amounts unusable. In addition, plastic packaging has become increasingly complex, with colors, additives, and multilayer, mixed compositions making it ever more difficult to recycle. China has now cut off imports of all but the cleanest and highest-grade materials — imposing a 99.5 percent purity standard that most exporters found all-but impossible to meet.

“Costs associated with recycling are up, revenue associated with recycling is down,” says an industry official.

“All recyclable plastics from municipal recycling programs have been pretty much banned,” says Anne Germain, vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the U.S. trade group National Waste and Recycling Association. “It’s had a tremendous impact. Costs associated with recycling are up, revenue associated with recycling is down. And that’s not turning around in the next few weeks.”

The U.S. and Europe, where many cities have longstanding recycling collection programs, have been especially hard-hit. Decades of reliance on China had stifled development of domestic markets and infrastructure. “There are just not very easy or cost-effective options for dealing with it now,” says Brooks. “So if nothing is done to ensure efficient management of plastic waste, the cost-effective option is to send it to landfills or incineration.”

In the U.S., small town and rural recycling operations have been hit the hardest. While most continue to operate, rising costs and falling incomes are forcing some, like Kingsport, Tennessee to shut down. Others, like Phenix City, Alabama, have stopped accepting all plastics. Places like Deltona, Florida suspended curbside pickup. Residents in municipalities like these now must travel to collection points in sometimes distant locations if they want to recycle. Some are inevitably tossing their recyclables in the trash instead.

Most larger cities — such as New York, San Francisco, and Portland, Oregon — have been able to either find alternative markets or improve and expand their municipal operations to process higher-quality and more marketable materials. But many have had to make changes, including dropping some harder-to-recycle materials from their programs. Sacramento, California, for instance, halted collections of plastics labeled #4 through #7 for several months last year at the city waste operator’s request. Residents were told to discard those items in their household garbage.

“That was a real eye opener for a lot of folks who love to feel good about putting their recycling in their blue bin and then it magically turns into something else,” says Erin Treadwell, community outreach manager for Sacramento Public Works. “We wish it was that easy.” Collection there resumed in November after a public education campaign on how households should clean and sort their recyclables.

In Philadelphia last year, when the city’s waste contractor demanded higher fees for collecting and processing recycled materials, the city sent half its recyclables to a waste-to-energy plant, where they were burned to generate electricity; the rest went to an interim contractor.

Displaced Chinese companies have announced plans to open new processing plants in South Carolina and Alabama.

Simon Ellin, CEO of The Recycling Association, a UK industry group, said these countries have struggled to cope with the volume displaced by the Chinese ban and were beginning to impose their own import restrictions.

Whether China’s ban leads to increased plastic pollution in the environment remains to be seen. “The plastic is now getting diverted to countries with a high risk of improper management and high leakage rates,” says Roland Geyer, an industrial ecology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and lead author of a recent study on the ultimate fate of disposed plastics. Still, China, with its high volume of imports, had been the source of more than a quarter of the world’s mismanaged waste, Jambeck says. So if proper alternatives are found, plastic pollution could actually decrease.

Some options are beginning to emerge. Several U.S. materials recovery facilities are expanding operations, upgrading equipment, and adding workers to improve sorting and reduce contamination so that the materials are acceptable to more discerning buyers. Duong’s Oakland-based company — which handles paper, plastics, and some metals — has modified its equipment and devised better ways of separating materials. The company has developed new markets domestically and in places like South Korea, Indonesia, and India.

And displaced Chinese processors have announced plans to open new U.S. processing plants in Orangeburg, South Carolina and Huntsville, Alabama. The companies will shred or pelletize things like plastic food containers to make products such as artificial plants and hangers.

“There is the expectation that we’ll be able to expand domestic processing,” says Germain. “That’s the good news. [But] you don’t build a new facility overnight.”

A variety of new policies aimed at reducing plastic waste are also in the works. The European Parliament recently approved a ban on single-use plastics, including plastic cutlery, straws, and drink-stirrers. Several North American cities, including Seattle and Vancouver, and companies like Starbucks and American Airlines have taken similar actions. And many places around the world now restrict plastic shopping bags.

“Reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place is the most important thing we can do,” says Lance Klug, information officer for California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. The agency has been working with manufacturers for the past decade to reduce the discarded packaging that makes up about a quarter of what’s in the state’s landfills, he says, adding, “We’re trying to get industry more involved in the end-of-life disposition of their products.”

Britain is planning to tax manufacturers of plastic packaging with less than 30 percent recycled materials. And Norway recently adopted a system in which single-use plastic bottle-makers pay an “environmental levy” that declines as the return rate for their products rises. The bottles must be designed for easy recycling, with no toxic additives, only clear or blue color, and water-soluble labels.


About the Author

Cheryl Katz is an independent science writer covering climate change, energy, earth sciences, and environmental health. A former newspaper reporter, she has reported from Iceland to Africa on topics ranging from new geothermal technology to rapidly warming lakes. Her articles have appeared in Scientific American, National Geographic News and Hakai Magazine, among other publications.

British Columbians and Nova Scotians are Canada’s best recyclers

, , ,

Written by John Mullinder, Executive Director, The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council

Nova Scotia might have the country’s highest diversion rate as a province (44%) but British Columbians recycle more as individuals.

Diversion rate per person by province

An analysis of the latest data from Statistics Canada shows that the average British Columbian diverted 377 kilograms of waste in 2016. That’s 60 kilograms more than the average Nova Scotian and twice as much as people living in Saskatchewan. The average Canadian diverted 263 kilograms of waste, the equivalent of about one heavy (50 pound) suitcase a month.

The “waste” includes used paper, plastic, glass, metals, textiles, organics (food scraps), electronics, tires, white goods such as fridges and appliances, and construction, renovation and demolition materials like wood, drywall, doors, windows and wiring.

There are some interesting differences between Canada’s two waste diversion leaders. Nova Scotia’s population is quite concentrated within a relatively small area compared to British Columbia, which would seem to give the waste diversion advantage to Nova Scotia. BC’s recycling results, on the other hand, are spread more broadly and thus less reliant on major tonnage diversion coming from just one or two material streams.

For example, while paper and organics are the major material streams diverted in each province, there’s a marked difference in their relative contribution to the provincial total. In British Columbia, paper recycling and organics diversion represent about one-third of the total each. But in Nova Scotia, organics recovery alone is responsible for over half (53%) of the province’s resulting diversion. Without that substantial diversion of organics, Nova Scotia would slip down the provincial rankings.

The data thus indicate opportunities for improvement as well: for BC to boost its organics diversion (it’s currently ranked  third behind Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in organics diversion per person) and for Nova Scotia to focus more attention on collecting materials other than organics (for example, it’s ranked sixth out of the eight reporting provinces in diverting paper).

Of course, better data, particularly on the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC & I) side would help. We believe that the diversion of paper in Nova Scotia is significantly higher than the Statistics Canada numbers indicate.

Diversion Rate for BC and NS
StatsCan Data



This article is republished with the permission of the author. It was first published at PPEC website.


About the Author

John Mullinder the Executive Director of the The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPPEC), a national trade association representing the environmental interests of Canada’s paper packaging industry. He has over 25 years progressive experience in environmental and sustainability issues. He is the author of Deforestation in Canada and Other Fake News (2018), The Inconvenient Truth about Packaging Waste in Canada (a selection of blogs written between 2010 and 2018).