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. 

 

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.

Fun with Waste: Feasting on Food Waste

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According to a report prepared by Second Harvest, approximately 60% of food waste is wasted. On an annual basis, this adds up to 35.5 million tonnes. Of that total the Second Harvest report estimates that 32% is edible food that could be redirected to support people in Canadian communities. The total financial value of this potentially rescuable lost and wasted food is a staggering $49.46 billion.

To raise awareness of the amount of food wasted in Canada that is actually edible, the Culinary Historians of Canada recently hosted an event at the George Brown College Hospitality and Tourism Campus called Food Waste – Past and Present in which patrons were able to Feast on Food Waste. Tickets for the event was $15.

Besides feasting of food waste, patrons learned about the history of food waste in Canada from Magdaline Dontsos, former faculty of the Food and Nutrition program at Centennial College as well as a member of the Ontario Society of Nutrition Management and the Canadian Society of Nutrition Management. Part of the discussion included an examination of the modern-day adjustments that could be made to make food production more sustainable.

The Culinary Historians of Canada (CHC) is an organization that researches, interprets, preserves and celebrates Canada’s culinary heritage, which has been shaped by the food traditions of the First Nations peoples and generations of immigrants from all parts of the world. Through programmes, events and publications, CHC educates its members and the public about the foods and beverages of Canada’s past. 

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

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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.

Fun with Waste: Cartons to Carpets

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Serge Attukwei Clottey is the founder of Ghana’s GoLokal performance collective. His work explores the cross-cutting themes of environmental protection and social justice. His concept of “Afrogallonism is a celebration of the yellow gallon containers, initially used as cooking oil canisters and then recycled to collect water or fuel.

Found throughout Ghana and known locally as jerrycans, the plastic containers have become synonymous with serious water shortages in Accra, and block waterways when they are discarded. Their prevalence in rural and urban communities caught Attukwei Clottey’s attention. He began imagining them as objects of art, and then came up with the concept of creating plastic carpets from them.

Garrette ClarkUN Environment’s Sustainable Lifestyles Programme Officer in the Consumption and Production Unit, said: “Sustainability is here to stay. We hear about climate change, waste and pollution every day. And, we increasingly hear how people are living in new ways that are good for people and planet. Serge Attukei Clottey is one of these new voices highlighting our plastic waste issue through his art.”

Attukwei Clottey’s idea is to tackle plastic pollution, and create a growing artistic movement to raise awareness and #SolveDifferent. We asked him what inspired him to come up with his Afrogallonism concept, and his message for young people.

What is Afrogallonism, and how did you come up with the concept?

I want to find ways to inspire people to work with plastics, and recycling it in creative ways. Afrogallonism is a word I made up after working with discarded jerrycans for fifteen years, as this type of plastic takes a long time to decay. Over time, the gallon containers have become like my second skin, and I realized that the top of the container looks like a mask. We have traditional masks, but these are like masks of our time. Afrogallonism is the new Africa—the future of Africa, bringing to the forefront issues of water scarcity and the importance of protecting our environment.

What challenges did you face along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I wanted to think of a practical approach to the critical issue of plastic waste management that brings value to the country. It’s not just about collecting plastics, but sending a powerful message back to manufacturers: waste is becoming a problem every single day. As an artist, I want to explore and create a dialogue around the plastic issue, involving corporate or government officials who can support our work so that the benefits remain in Ghana. I face many challenges—including lack of space and even lack of African representation on a global stage. Some galleries are not interested in displaying African Art. My art is now getting international recognition because black people across the world can relate to the narratives I explore. One of the biggest challenges has been getting my community to understand the importance of my work, but this is changing in Ghana.

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The carpets claim space and raise awareness of plastic waste. Photo by Serge Attukei Clottey / Afrogallonism.

Can you give us some background on the scope of your work?

I currently have about 15 young men and women working directly with me, and dozens of others who collect plastic waste materials for the project, and they are paid adequately for the work done. I can’t tell if this project is going to be the solution to plastic waste—but at least we are taking that step to act. We collect the plastic containers along coastal beaches, as well as at dump sites. You see them ending up on the streets and in the ocean. For me, the materials play a very significant role in my work and I take care in repurposing the plastic.

What are alternatives to the use of jerrycans that could help us #SolveDifferent?

Let’s focus on the product, and raise awareness among companies making plastic cartons and containers. We need to know where these plastics are coming from and for me, taking the issue up with companies producing plastic products is key. Manufacturers must have a bigger interest in where their products end up.

At the United Nations Environment Assembly, UN Environment is urging people to Think Beyond and Live Within. Join the debate on social media using #SolveDifferent to share your stories and see what others are doing towards a sustainable future for our planet.

Pyrowave, Polystyvert and GreenMantra receive National Attention for Polystyrene Recycling

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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.

What drives household textile diversion?

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D., Faculty of Environmental StudiesYork University

In December of 2018, York University undertook extensive household survey testing/questionnaires pertaining to attitudes towards textile waste, clothing donation bins and factors affecting bin utilization.

This study was seen as the conceptual follow up to the Fall 2016 study conducted by the university, which was originally designed to identify the primary determinants to textile donations and explore possible impediments/barriers to participation. 

Salient findings from the 2016 study include: 

1) Unlike other waste streams, convenience is not the most significant predictor of household participation

2) Unlike other material streams (such as waste WEEE, or PP&P) households have a “value attachment” associated with their used clothing. As such, households indicated a very strong preference for ensuring that their donations were going to a cause they personally identified with (charitable, social, environmental etc.)

3) The presence of charity masqueraders results in significant confusion for households. This confusion was sufficient enough to deter household participating in diversion activity *Note: While there is no formal definition for what constitutes a charity masquerader, these are often operators who deceptively brand themselves in a way to suggest that they are a charity, without being transparent regarding the destination of the material or what is being done with the proceeds from the donation. Numerous communities across Canada have expressed concerns surrounding the presence of 3rd party bins, as they often do not adhere to regular service schedules or bylaw licensing requirements.

With these findings in mind, York University, in collaboration with Diabetes Canada and a coalition of charitable actors, partnered with municipalities across Canada to launch the first municipal textile donation program. 

The underlying premise of this program is that municipalities would designate preferred textile collectors within the community (often through municipal branding on bins, or some other form of official recognition), which clearly communicated to residents that “approved collectors” were adhering to best practices in funding transparency, accessibility and service standards. The intent of this municipal vetting process was to reduce consumer uncertainty regarding both the collector of the material, and the destination of the donation. 

Phase 2 of this study wanted to gauge how (if at all) household attitudes towards textile donation have changed, particularly in light of the formal municipal programs being offered in communities across Canada. 

Study design

Three broad geographic regions were selected on the basis of relative population distribution, proximity to existing (both branded and unbranded bins) and overall population densities to reflect medium – large urban markets. 

These groups were selected on the basis that they provide an adequate geographic representation of the province, and provide the greatest opportunity to interview the broadest cross section of both sociodemographic and socioeconomic groups. 

These groups included:

  1. Large Urban (Toronto, Brampton, Mississauga, York Region)
  2. Urban Regional (Ajax)
  3. Medium Urban (Barrie)

Survey questions were organized into four main areas: (1) Awareness/Attitudes (2) Accessibility; (3) Motivation for use and (4) demographic information related to age, ethnicity, education and income. 

Questionnaires were pre-tested and refined prior to conducting the official survey. The pre-test allowed for wording refinements and changes to the ordering of the questions. The finalized survey was conducted over a four week period beginning in the second week of December 2018 and running through January 2019. Teams of two enumerators and one site supervisor were sent to each municipality for a period of four days each, spending 6 h at each survey site.

Questionnaire “booths” were set up in spaces with high foot traffic (namely malls, arenas and public commons areas). Enumerators were asked to approach members of the public, explain who they were and the purpose of the study, and requested approximately 10–15 min of the participant’s time to complete the survey. A five dollar Tim Horton’s Café and Bake shop gift card was used to incent participation. 

A mix of convenience and quota sampling was employed to ensure that survey participants reflect the relative proportions of Ontario’s population. Survey responses were recorded by hand and later electronically archived and analyzed using Provalis Word Stat, Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word.

A total of 901 responses were successfully recorded (out of 2422 approached) for a response rate of 37.2%.

Generally speaking, Likert scales using ordinal ranking were used to classify survey responses.

It is important to note that the data gathered from our surveys is based on self-reported behavior, and not observed behavior. Self-reported measures of environmental awareness and participation tend to be overstated. This phenomenon is known as the value action gap. 

A summary of select survey results are shown below.

Levels of Participation and Motivators for Participation

Figures 1 through 4 below summarize household responses regarding self-reported levels of textile donation and stated motivators for participation

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 Consistent with the findings from the 2016 survey, surveyed households report participating in textile donation to some degree (at least once every three months) , with the most popular reuse method being “hand me downs” to relatives and friends. The primary motivator for making a donation was rooted in altruistic motives “helping less fortunate”, or providing assistance to members of a broader kinship network. 

Of note, donations made to a clothing drop off bin or a physical retail site accounted for approximately half of all used textiles reported by our respondents. 

Credibility and Awareness

The majority of survey respondents indicated that having “municipally approved branding” (on clothing donation bins, in the store etc.) would directly incent participation, by reducing uncertainty regarding the operator and destination of donated material (as shown in figures 5 and 6). 

More than 65% of all respondents agreed (or strongly agreed) that municipally branded bins would encourage them to donate more, while 60% of all respondents felt that municipal branding reduced uncertainty. As noted in the 2016 study, uncertainty regarding what happens to a donation is sufficient to discourage diversion behavior, as households want to feel that their donations are being used in a socially, environmentally and economically responsible way.  

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 Of note in figure 7, households still have extreme difficulty distinguishing between charitable and non-charitable bins, exacerbating the confusion and frustration on the part of the consumer regarding who are legitimate collectors, and who are charitable masqueraders. This ultimately impedes household participation in textile diversion initiatives, as shown in Figure 8. 

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Responsibilities of Municipalities and Retailers in educating the public about textile diversion

Perhaps the most salient finding from the follow up study is that households feel that both the retailer (steward selling the clothes) and municipalities bare a shared responsibility in educating households about what to do with textiles at end of life (as shown in figures 9-10)

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Lack of Access/Opportunity

Despite efforts on the part of both municipalities and clothing collectors, majority of survey respondents indicated that they did have readily available access to clothing donation bins (or other drop off points) in their neighborhoods. 

This suggests that clothing collectors continue to work with municipalities in placing collection points in high density, well trafficked areas to maximize access for the public. 

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The full results of this study are expected by late Spring – the purpose of this pre-publication is to better understand what drives household diversion behavior, and what opportunities exist to develop economically, socially and environmentally desirable collection infrastructure for used textiles.


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 .

Innovative company fueling greener steel from Wood Waste

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Ontario-based CHAR Technologies is developing cost-effective and efficient alternative fuels that help manufacturers drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), all while adding value to otherwise wasted resources. Andrew White is CEO of CHAR Technologies Ltd., an innovative Toronto-based cleantech company specializing in biocarbon fuel development and provides custom equipment for industrial air and water treatment, environmental management services, site investigation and remediation and resource efficiency.

Mr. White began developing their first product, SulfaCHAR, while he was a grad student at the University of Toronto (U of T). SulfaCHAR is a patented form of activated biochar that removes hydrogen sulfide from renewable natural gas the same way a Brita® water filter removes contaminants from tap water, leaving behind a clean biogas that can be used for multiple energy applications.

The feedstock used in the production of SulfaCHAR is anaerobic digestate and/or compost.  Production of SulfaCHAR is achieved by pyrolysis under patented conditions that include specific hold times, temperatures, and conditions.  Currently, there is a SulfaCHAR production facility co-located at the Stormfisher Environmental biogas facility in London, Ontario.

CHAR Technologies’ next challenge is to develop a product it calls CleanFyre, a solid biofuel intended to replace traditional coal. On a fundamental level, CleanFyre is produced through pyrolysis, the same process that has been used to turn wood into charcoal since ancient times. “In pyrolysis, you have a bio-based material that you heat up in the absence of oxygen,” explains Devon Barry, Char Technologies’ Biocarbon Manager. “Since there is no oxygen, the organic material does not combust but instead the chemical compounds that make up the material decompose into combustible gases and charcoal.”

As we all know, burning coal proliferates GHGs, and unfortunately, a commercially viable solution that produces high enough energy levels to replace coal in many manufacturing processes, such as iron making, doesn’t exist yet. However, CHAR Technologies believes it can offer a solution to address the need for a high carbon, low ash coal replacement as an energy and reactant source.

The feedstock in the production of Cleanfyre is currently clean wood and waste wood. Other biomass materials are also being testing. The use of wood and biomass in the production the CleanFyre is considered carbon neutral as the source material is renewable.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco is Canada’s largest flat roll steel producer based in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2017, the steelmaker approached one of Ontario’s regional innovation centres, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), looking for a cost-effective alternative fuel for their blast furnaces that would reduce GHGs.

Andrew White, CEO, CHAR Technologies

“There was nothing that could generate the high levels of carbon and energy needed for steel production,” says White, who has now been meeting with ArcelorMittal Dofasco for 18 months. CHAR Technologies is piloting their CleanFyre energy fuel product through this Ontario-based collaboration, with an eye on opening up a market estimated at $340 million in Ontario alone.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco has active plans towards an initial 20 tonne trial of CleanFyre in their blast furnaces, with the potential to scale-up once they confirm the fuel’s effectiveness. The major advantage of CHAR Technologies’ solution is ‘simplicity,’ says White. “There are no major modifications required for the iron making process; we’re striving towards a ‘drop-in’ solid biofuel.”

Ongoing research at the University of Toronto will be key to CleanFyre’s success. “We are working with researchers at the University of Toronto on some very innovative ways to drastically reduce the ash content, which will allow us to expand our feed stocks to low value ‘wastes’ that have valuable low GHG carbon that’s otherwise inaccessible.”

This article is an edited version from the one posted on the InvestOntario website.

Artificial Intelligence and Robotics could revolutionize MRFs

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Ferrovial, a global infrastructure operator and municipal services company, and EIT Climate-KIC (a public-private innovation partnership) are collaborating with start-up ZenRobotics to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics into the company’s municipal recycling facilities (MRFs).

In accordance with a rule set last year by the European Parliament, European Union countries will have to recycle 55 per cent of all municipal waste by 2025. For context, less than 30 per cent of all waste generated in Spain was recycled in 2016. It’s therefore increasingly necessary for all potentially recoverable waste to get recycled.

While waste sorting is a highly automated process in Europe, several tasks are still carried out manually in order to sort and recover valuable materials in the waste stream. Such tasks include the quality control of recovered materials and the separation of bulky waste. Workers are exposed to risks due to direct contact with waste. Additionally, waste sorting is a job that requires repetitive movements, which are hard on the human body.

Robotics and AI are innovations uniquely poised to improve the quality of work and health conditions of employees since exposure to waste will be reduced. These innovations will also increase the rate and quality of recovered waste that will re-enter production processes as secondary raw materials, thereby reducing the demand for completely new raw materials as well as the pollution associated with the manufacturing and extraction of such raw materials. Ferrovial decided to collaborate with start-up ZenRobotics for this reason—to support the transition to a circular economy.

“The successful implementation of the ZRR for Municipal Waste project could also have a positive impact on plant workers’ jobs, which are often repetitive, unpleasant, experience high-turnover and are risky. The work will transform into automated systems management and troubleshooting—high-value jobs based on technology,” said Rafael Fernández, Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation, Ferrovial. “Automation technologies will also create new occupations that don’t exist today, much as past technologies have done.”

How does it work?

The Zen Robotics Recycler (ZRR) robot is equipped with numerous sensors, including machine vision, which continuously monitor the waste stream. The AI recognises the desired materials and the industrial robotic arms, called grippers, pick out these materials quickly and precisely.

ZenRobotics technology has been tested in construction and demolition waste sorting, where it’s achieved rates of 2,000 picks per hour per gripper and purity rates of 98 per cent in separated streams. The technology has demonstrated its capacity to separate bulky items weighing up to 30 kilograms.

However, significant differences between construction and demolition waste and municipal solid waste streams mean the technology’s implementation at a municipal waste sorting plant requires adaptation: This is what is being undertaken in the project and is the first time the technology has been applied to municipal solid waste sorting. To address this challenge, Ferrovial is working with the Wuppertal Institute for Climate Environment and Energy.

“The robot training with municipal wastes is advancing favourably,” said Vicente Galván, Director of the Center of Excellence for Environment, Ferrovial. “Some preliminary results point to a good performance of the technology. Final results can be expected in July, once the testing phase is over.”

The robot was recently installed at the Ecoparc4 plant in Els Hostalets de Pierola, Barcelona, which is managed by Ferrovial’s services subsidiary. The installed unit features two consecutive robotic arms and will initially be trained to identify up to 13 different materials. It’s envisaged that the system’s capacity will be subsequently expanded and that it will be able to identify new materials in the waste stream via updateable, smart, self-learning software. The testing and robot learning process will be carried out at the Ecoparc plant over several months.

Following the testing process, if the results are positive, the robot ZRR2 will be put into operation. The system would be installed in the bulky waste reject line above a stream that thus far hasn’t been leveraged for recovery and was being managed for landfilling. The ZRR2’s features and the waste’s characteristics make it of interest to deploy the robot, according to Ferrovial. Through implementing this system, the Ecoparc plans to recover a greater quantity of recyclables as well as new materials which to date were not recovered.

“The ZRR2 is set to become a powerful tool that contributes to ensuring the supply of essential resources in a society whose rate of growth hinders its sustainability,” said Galván.

What’s next?

If the results of the ZRR for Municipal Waste project, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, are favourable, it will enable the technology to be used on other types of waste streams, not only in the Ecoparc4 facility, but also at other Ferrovial waste sorting plants.

Additionally, the project will contribute to the quantification and qualification of circular economy impact. NTU International, a consortium partner, will perform a socio-economic and environmental analysis of the robot’s introduction in the waste treatment facility. The analysis’ results can be expected in November.

Europe Announces ban of Single Use Plastics and Extends Extended Producer Responsibility Programs

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The European Parliament recently agreed on the ambitious measures proposed by the European Commission to ban selected single-use products made of plastic as well as introduce extended producer responsibility (EPR) for new products.

The new rules are an attempt to lesson marine pollution by plastic and abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics.

Once the rules are in place, cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons that are made of plastic will be banned in the European Union (EU).

The new rules also ban cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic. Oxo-degradable plastics are made of petroleum-based polymers(usually polyethylene (PE)) that contain additives (usually metal salts), which accelerate their degradation when exposed to heat and/or light. The argument for banning oxo-degradable plastics is that they are similar to conventional plasticmaterials but have artificial additives. They do not actually biodegrade but merely fragment into small pieces and potentially harm the environment and endanger recycling and composting operations.


While often confused with biodegradable plastics, oxo-degradables are a category unto themselves. They are neither a bioplastic nor a biodegradable plastic, but rather a conventional plastic mixed with an additive in order to imitate biodegredation.

The new rules include EPR schemes for cigarette filters and fishing gear.
Producers of cigarettes with filters (the filters are not biodegradable) will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up. Producers of plastic fishing gear will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures.  Producers will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products

Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached. Also, the diversion target for plastic bottles was set at 90% by 2025. One method to achieve the high diversion rate is deposit refund schemes.

The rules on Single-Use Plastics items and fishing gear, addressing the ten most found items on EU beaches place the EU at the forefront of the global fight against marine litter. They are part of the EU Plastics Strategy – the most comprehensive strategy in the world adopting a material-specific lifecycle approach with the vision and objectives to have all plastic packaging placed on the EU market as reusable or recyclable by 2030. The Single-Use Plastics Directive adopted by the European Parliament today is an essential element of the Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan as it stimulates the production and use of sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added: “Once implemented, the new rules will not only prevent plastic pollution, but also make the European Union the world leader in a more sustainable plastic policy. The European Parliament has played an essential role in laying the foundation for this transformation and in giving a chance to the industry to innovate, thus driving forward our circular economy.”

The Single-Use Plastics Directive voted on by the European Parliament today tackles directly marine litter thanks to a set of ambitious measures:

  • A ban on selected single-use products made of plastic for which alternatives exist on the market: cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons, as well as cups, food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene and on all products made of oxo-degradable plastic.
  • Measures to reduce consumption of food containers and beverage cups made of plastic and specific marking and labelling of certain products.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility schemes covering the cost to clean-up litter, applied to products such as tobacco filters and fishing gear.
  • A 90% separate collection target for plastic bottles by 2029 (77% by 2025) and the introduction of design requirements to connect caps to bottles, as well as target to incorporate 25% of recycled plastic in PET bottles as from 2025 and 30% in all plastic bottles as from 2030.

The proposed Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior. The EU claims that , when implemented, the new measures will bring about both environmental and economic benefits. The economic benefits claimed by the new rule implementation include €22 billion in avoidance of environmental damage by 2030 and €6.5 billion to consumers in savings in the form of reduced waste treatment by public authorities.

Next steps

Following this approval by the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers will finalise the formal adoption. This endorsement will be followed by the publication of the texts in the Official Journal of the Union. The Member States will then have two years to transpose the legislation into their national law.