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Who’s Making the Rules on Global Plastics?

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie

There is no question that dramatic changes are coming for the supply and reverse supply chain for plastics that will impact packaging, containers, and plastic products. From resins and polymer mixes to ocean plastic clean up and waste export bans and everything in between, it is difficult to not foresee a fundamental regime shift coming for the regulation of plastics globally. But just who decides on these new rules and how will disparate initiatives and goals lead to convergence on legal standards?

EU Plastics Strategy

The first place to start is, of course, the European Union. The broad-reaching 2018 strategy encompasses the landmark 2019 Single Use Plastics Directive, targeting certain commonly disposed products and includes:

  • Bans for a number of single use plastics (cutlery, straws, etc.) where non-plastic alternatives are readily available and affordable;
  • Reduction targets for food containers and cups;
  • Ambitious collection targets of up to 90%;
  • Producer payment obligations to help fund waste management and legacy clean-up costs;
  • Labelling of some plastics, indicating how to waste dispose and alerts as to the negative environmental impacts of plastics; and
  • Consumer awareness campaigns about negative impacts of plastic litter and re-use and waste management options. 

In short, it is a policy mix impacting various parts of the life-cycle. The Plastics Strategy goes further, however, and requires of all plastics:

  • Design of recyclability;
  • Creation of markets for recycled and renewable plastics;
  • Expanding and modernizing EU’s plastics sorting and recycling capacity;
  • Mandating producer-paid initiatives to curb plastic wastes;
  • A regulatory framework for plastics with biodegradable properties; and
  • Coming regulation on microplastics across a number of industries.

This relatively comprehensive set of product and supply chain requirements would apply to both inbound and outbound products, leaving little room for global plastics industry stakeholders to remain untouched by these coming standards.

Ellen MacArthur’s “New Plastics Economy”

What the Ellen MacArthur Foundation lacks in regulatory authority, it more than makes up for in ambition. The seminal publications on a “New Plastics Economy” involves macro-level systems to remake supply/reverse supply chains. Overall, it’s mission is described as follows:

  • Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation, and new delivery models is a priority;
  • Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging;
  • All plastic packaging is 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable;
  • All plastic packaging is reused, recycled, or composted in practice;
  • The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources; and
  • All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and rights of all people involved are respected.

The genius of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment is its multi-stakeholders industry approach, enlisting some of the largest industrials and other stakeholders from across the plastics supply and reverse supply chain to make concrete, shared undertakings, thereby establishing common terms of reference and objective standards by which supply chain parties can systematize their efforts.

They’ve gone further and fostered the growth of “Plastic Pacts” in which countries are to enlist domestic industry to make commitments which exceed EU standards. The reference terms are not, however, entirely consistent, potentially creating future challenges for international industry to adopt a single compliance legal regime where long-term investment under the MacArthur Foundation model isn’t entirely exported into law.

Alliance to End Plastic Waste

January 2019 also saw the creation of the industry-led Alliance to End Plastic Waste, which has committed an astounding $1.5 Billion over the next five years with a mandate to “bring to scale solutions that will minimize and manage plastic waste and promote solutions for used plastics by helping enable a circular economy”.

To date, the Alliance appears to be focused upon funding plastics-relevant waste management projects, principally in Asia, but their heft will, no doubt, be relevant in the overall direction of plastics policy given their petrochemical representation and their planned investments. It remains to be seen when and how they might enter the plastics product design-for-environment field.

Basel Convention

Finally, the newest major entrant in the increasingly crowded field of new plastics standards is the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. In addition to the deeming of most plastic wastes as controlled by the environmental and transfer protections built into the Basel Convention effective January 1st, 2021, the May 2019 resolutions also put the organization into the forefront of plastics regulation with some notable initiatives:

  • An expert working group is to be convened to consider whether to expand the categories of plastic wastes which should be classified as “hazardous” under the Convention (many will be simply classified as “other wastes” under the May 2019 resolutions);
  • A “partnership on plastic wastes” is to be convened which will include the (state) parties to the Convention, as well as certain other stakeholders (as either parties or observers) and will:
    • Engage in pilot projects and scaling exercises;
    • Assess best practices, as well as barriers, for the prevention, minimization, and environmentally-sound management of plastic waste movements; and
    • Consider options for increasing durability, reusability, reparability and recyclability of plastics.
  • A mandate to update the current Technical Guidelines which are to be a point of reference of parties’ national and international waste management and recycling standards, including how they relate to plastics.

With these goals, the Basel Convention has gone from a virtual bystander on most plastic waste issues to an aspirant for a central role, with the backing of almost all national governments (notably absent – USA). Further, the Basel Convention has overtly called for collaboration with the United National Environment Program, giving it a further platform to push through multi-lateral action on plastics. Whether the Basel Convention lacks the industry integration to remain relevant in this dynamic market, however, remains to be seen.

Where’s the Convergence?

In looking at these four major global initiatives, what’s most staggering is that they’ve all arisen in the past year, each arguably filling a vacuum on plastics stewardship to which great public animosity was paid.

While each has a somewhat different mandate and maybe all would benefit from each pursuing their own enterprises for now, there will soon be a need for convergence on the fundamentals of future plastics rules, such as permissible plastics types, hazards eliminations, recycled content minimums, environmental attributes, such as “compostable” or “biodegradable”, design for recyclability, usage bans, and reverse supply chain integration.

Without convergent, plastics industry stakeholders won’t find the market stability necessary to make any of these initiatives successful.


About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Firm’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of firm Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environment, health and safety matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. He appears before both EHS tribunals and civil courts across Canada. Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on EHS matters, an active participant on EHS issues in a number of national and international industry associations and the recent author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).

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.

Recycled Content Standards for Plastic Products Coming?

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by Jonathan Cocker, Baker Mckenzie

The attention currently devoted to plastics waste in both the public and private sectors is breathtaking. A growing number of international brands have made recycled content commitments for their plastic packaging and related containers. The European Union’s Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy has begun implementing changes to the EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive and the UK Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has just released a well-developed plastics packaging taxation proposal that is currently under public consultation. The plans for plastic packaging are open and notorious.

Less obvious has been the regulatory direction for plastic products. An increasing number of consumer goods companies are promoting products with some plastic (or even ocean plastic) waste content, though there are no common standards by which these claims can be measured. The EU has committed to some limited prohibitions on single use plastics (read: knives and forks) and has called for voluntary member commitments to grow markets for recycled plastics in its Strategy. The G7 Oceans Plastic Charter includes, an aspirational 2030 member goal of “working with industry towards increasing recycled content by at least 50% in plastic products where applicable”.

The dramatic reduction of overseas markets, including China’s National Sword, has, however, made urgent the need for local markets for recycled plastics. Something must be done.

Circular Economy and the Demand Side

In response, there is increasing support for broadening the role that all plastic products (of some chemistry) can play within a broader plastics circular economy strategy. Reloop’s June 2018 A Call for EU Action on Recycled Content Mandates, Eunomia’s UK Demand Recycled, October 2018 and A Vision for a Circular Economy for Plastics in Canada, Smart Prosperity Institute, February 2019 are just three recent advocates for recycled plastics content standards, creating the necessary market to ensure both supply chains and reverse supply chains are designed for the resupply of the necessary recycled content input.

Further, the materials caught by these recycled content obligations could be substantially broadened to capture the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors, as additional to consumer goods, to expand the market (and thereby potentially lower the price) for recycled plastics content.

The Commercial Case for Recycled Content Standards

Among the benefits of recycled content requirements would be the marriage of product content with its recycling, compelling producers to better understand the opportunities for the recycled plastics generated, and to foster further innovation to best streamline more efficient recycling methods to produce high-grade plastics at commercial scale.

The Smart Prosperity Institute also points out that this closed loop strategy will insulate producers from plastic market fluctuations:

Recycled content performance standards create a market for recycled materials that moves in step with the demand for plastic products regardless of input prices from other feedstocks. Such an approach will overcome the economic barrier posed by fluctuating virgin commodity prices even as demand for plastic products continues to grow.

There is also existing recycling infrastructure in North America and the EU which is at risk if new viable markets aren’t found for recycled plastics. Finally, the liabilities associated with the release of plastic waste to the environment would be lessened given the market incentives for recapture.

How Would It Work?

As has already been proven on a more limited scale in California, recycled content standards can function in a local (though large) market without international adoption. It would, however, benefit from expansion through multilateral initiatives such as the G7 Oceans Plastic Charter and the EU Strategy, creating a sufficient market to attract broad-scale overhaul of international supply chains for plastic products.

Alternatives to direct mandated standards include an input tax based upon the percentage of fossil-fuel derived plastics. This is the approach seemingly favoured for packaging by DAERA. There are also more complex models such as a “feebate” or a tradable credit regime, both of which may offer unique functionality benefits but are perhaps too involved for easy and confident adoption by participating countries. All models, however, point to recycled plastics content as a coming reality.

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It would be a mistake to review recycled content standards as either obscure or otherwise a 2030 obligation. As traditional recycling is going through a dramatic shift, plastic feedstock no longer has easy secondary markets in developing countries and there is a growing clamour for circular economy as a remedy to pervasive plastic waste, it is possible that the international push for these standards will be upon plastics product makers sooner than they might expect.

This article is republished at the permission of the author. It was first published on the Baker McKenzie Environmental Law Insights website.

About the author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Firm’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of firm Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environment, health and safety matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. He appears before both EHS tribunals and civil courts across Canada. Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on EHS matters, an active participant on EHS issues in a number of national and international industry associations and the recent author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).

Fish waste used to fertilize cannabis plants

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As reported by the CBC, a company in south central Ontario has developed a closed loop system in which fish fertilize cannabis plants, while the cannabis plants filter the water for the fish.

Green Relief facility in Flamborough, Ontario is the only licensed cannabis producer in the world growing using aquaponics — an advanced, soil-less form of sustainable agriculture where fish and plants are grown together in a natural ecosystem environment.

Aquaponics combines the best attributes of aquaculture and hydroponics, without the need to discard water or add chemical fertilizers. It produces 10 times the crop yield per acre and uses 90% less water than conventional farming.

“This is the agriculture of the future,” stated Warren Bravo in an interview with the CBC. He is a former concrete contractor who co-founded the company with friend Steve LeBlanc in 2013. “If you’re not latching on to sustainable agriculture technologies now, you’re going to be a dinosaur.”

Green Relief’s closed-loop system, which raises 6,000 tilapia and 4,500 plants at any given time, uses 90 percent less water than conventional agriculture, while delivering 10-20 percent better yields than traditional methods, Bravo said.

Every five weeks, Green Relief purges one of its 16 fish tanks, donating some 300 market-size tilapia to Second Harvest, a food charity which delivers the fish to a homeless shelter’s kitchen.

A $60 million expansion is underway at the company’s rural base outside Hamilton, about an hour’s drive west of Toronto, which will add 15,000-20,000 kilograms to annual output. The project also includes manufacturing and packaging operations, to process plants from its satellite operations.

With partners, Green Relief is also building facilities in Thunder Bay, Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia that will each produce some 20,000 kilograms annually, Bravo said.

Polystyrene Recycling Facility to be built in the U.S.A.

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Agilyx, an Oregon-based company specializing in converting waste plastics to low carbon fuels and chemicalsrecently announced that it signed a Letter of Intent with AmSty, a leading producer of polystyrene and styrene monomer. The Companies intend to form a joint venture that will assume operations of Agilyx’s first-in-kind polystyrene recycling facility in Tigard, Oregon, and to pursue the development of a 50 ton per day polystyrene recycling facility at a location to be determined. 

Last August AmSty and Agilyx announced an offtake agreement to process recycled styrene monomer from Agilyx’s Tigard, Oregon, facility at AmSty’s styrene monomer plant in St. James, Louisiana. “We are excited to work with Agilyx, a leading developer of recycling technologies for plastics, as we continue to improve our PolyUsable™ process assuring polystyrene remains a viable and growing component of the circular economy,” said Brad Crocker, President and CEO of AmSty.

“Agilyx is very excited to expand our relationship with AmSty,” said Joe Vaillancourt, Agilyx’s chief executive officer. “This joint venture will greatly advance the circular economy for post-consumer polystyrene waste and reflects the confidence and support by industry for our technology platform.”

What is Polystyrene?

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS), commonly referred to as polystyrene, is a type 6 plastic that is also known as the trademarked brand Styrofoam.  It is used in in food and beverage packaging (i.e., coffee cups), insulation, and for protection of materials during shipping.  It has very low density as it is over 95 percent air.

Although 100% recyclable, EPS’s low density means transporting any quantity of it for recycling proves prohibitively expensive.

The Technology

The Agilyx process converts used polystyrene products back into their original liquid form, styrene monomer.  Thermal depolymerization or pyrolysis the polystyrene is a major step in the process.  New polystyrene products can then be made from this recycled styrene monomer without any degradation of quality or value. The company holds several patents for both its technology and processes, and have additional patents pending.

Agilyx opened its first commercial waste polystyrene-to-styrene oil chemical recycling plant on April 19, 2018. The plant recycles up to 10 tonnes per day of previously unrecoverable polystyrene waste to produce high-quality styrenic polymers.

Agilyx Commercial Scale System in Oregon

About AmSty
AmSty is a leading integrated producer of polystyrene and styrene monomer, offering solutions and services to customers in a variety of markets throughout the Americas. The company is headquartered in The Woodlands, Texas, and is a member of the American Chemistry Council and its Responsible Care initiative.

About Agilyx
Agilyx is an environmental technology and development company located in Tigard, Oregon, that extracts value from difficult-to-recycle mixed waste plastic streams. The Company has developed the first system capable of recycling polystyrene waste into styrene monomer, which is then used to remake polystyrene (“PS”). The Company also has commercialized a technology that converts mixed plastics to high quality VGO crude. These efforts have allowed the Company to expand its product platform into a range of customized low carbon fuels and chemicals. Agilyx has also expanded its circular plastic recycling capabilities, implementing a method for manufacturing feedstocks used for the production of polymers. Agilyx is working with waste service providers, municipalities, refiners, and private and public enterprises to develop closed-loop industrial solutions for mixed waste plastics. Contact us to have your plastic waste streams recycled at info@agilyx.com. For more information, follow us on social media and visit us at www.agilyx.com.

Waste Accumulation Problems and Opportunities

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by Zoltan Kish, Ph.D., Quasar ScienceTech

An incredible amount of waste is produced in Canada and around the world. Humans are dumping 2.12 billion tons of garbage every year and polluting the oceans, land, and air.  Consequently, we need sustainable and effective waste management to protect our environment and save our world.

In 2016, the Ontario government released its Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, diverting our wasteful ways towards an entirely circular economy.  The proposed strategy requires appropriate tools and an innovative approach to solving the tremendous waste accumulation problem.

The urgency for made-in-Canada solutions for waste management has sped up with the fact that China severely restricts the types of recyclables it accepts.  Prior to the plastic waste restrictions instituted in December 2017, China was the home to 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste since 1992.

Under the new circumstance, some municipal governments could get out of the recycling business altogether, and the recycled waste will end up in the landfills and the energy in waste is mostly lost.  Landfilling plastics would severely lessen the landfill capacity in Canada, already a growing concern as chronicled by Fraser Institute, the Ontario Waste Management Association, and others.

Canadian Solutions

We need more effective and sustainable ways to manage the produced waste.  Government in Canada should implement appropriate tools for the waste management challenge.  One tool would be the encouragement of using waste as a resource.  One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.  For example, depending on the waste plastic composition and level of contaminations, the plastic feedstock could be effectively converted into high-value products through pyrolysis and waste steam gasification technologies.

If the plastic feedstock is clean and has an appropriate composition, pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) can be applied to depolymerize plastic and convert it mostly into liquid fuel.  The steam gasification reformation technology is more suitable for contaminated plastic waste conversion into high energy value syngas and hydrogen.  Additionally, syngas can be converted into liquid fuels and green chemicals using Gas-to Liquid catalytic process.

The use of advanced and effective waste-to-energy (WTE) technology applications in combination with a reliable scrubbing/cleaning system can provide a solution for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste disposal, clean energy production, and sustainable product regeneration. The waste, potentially, can be converted into various forms of clean energy products, such as electricity, hydrogen, liquid synthetic fuels, and “green” chemicals.

Waste can be a cost-effective and environmentally-sound feedstock in the generation of clean energy, replacing a portion of fossil fuels.

High quality liquid synthetic fuels, without sulfur contamination, can be produced from waste materials by a combination of a Waste-to-Gas technology with a Gas-to-Liquids technology based on the Fischer–Tropsch catalytic process.

Regrettably, mass burn incineration has been often considered as a WTE technology to process waste for an astonishing cost and relatively minimal energy production.  For example, a new mass burn incinerator was built in York and North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom at a cost of £1.4 billion ($2.4 billion Cdn.)  The incinerator will divert more than 230,000 tonnes of household waste but will produce only 24 MW of power.

Allerton Waste Recovery Park, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Another example of an enormous and costly incineration facility is the one planed in Hong Kong. The incinerator will cost $4 billion and process 3000 tonnes of waste per day (1,050,000 tonnes/year).  The total amount of energy the facility will produce per year is 489 million kWh/year of energy, which is equivalent to 57 MW of power.

In my professional opinion, incineration is a very costly and inefficient way for waste conversion into electricity.  The highly pollutants generated from incineration require very expensive air pollution controls.

In a circular economy, advanced emerging waste conversion technologies (e.g., Waste-to-Energy, Waste-to-Gas, and Gas-to-Liquids technologies) can play a pivotal role in waste disposal.  Efficient waste conversion technology applications can be a path to a working circular economy. Recycling is not only based on simple reusing the waste products.

The purpose of recycling is to redesign and convert waste into forms retaining as high value as possible in a circular economy. Contaminated waste products are challenging to recycle and reuse. Garbage can be converted into high-value products through mechanical/physical, thermochemical, and biochemical processes. The waste can be transformed into various forms of sustainable and clean energy products utilizing effective waste conversion technologies in the circular economy.

The increasing amount of waste is one of the most challenging problems facing the world, which creates global environmental challenges. Contaminated waste products (e.g., plastic, paper, diapers, medical waste, waste biomass, and industrial byproducts) are challenging to recycle and reuse in the traditional way.  Therefore, we have an urgent requirement to deal with the tremendous waste accumulation.  At the same time, we have a tremendous business opportunity to convert waste into usable sustainable products.

The circular economy can be based on efficient waste conversion technologies, such as traditional gasification, steam gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion.  Mostly, the steam gasification reformation of waste is more efficient and cost-effective than other thermo-chemical and bio-chemical technologies and able to convert both biodegradable and non-biodegradable carbonaceous waste contents into higher value clean/renewable energy products.

 

It is essential that sustainable waste management become an integral part of urban development. With the right approach, we could have a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for waste disposal, clean energy production, and sustainable product regeneration as a combination of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste processing.

 About the Author

Dr. Zoltan Kish has a Ph.D. in Chemistry with over 25 years of diverse industrial and academic experience and contributed to more than 70 scientific publications. He has developed and managed complex research and development programs related to alternative/renewable energy, clean technologies, GHG, sustainability, and advanced materials applications, such as solar energy technology, ceramic engine & cutting tool components, materials processing, and electronics. Dr. Kish was the Director of Research & Development at two major Canadian alternative energy companies where he focused on R&D and commercialization of unique Waste-to-Energy technologies and reliable scrubbing/ cleaning systems to produce clean and sustainable energy products. In response to global environmental challenges and the need for scientific evaluations of new technologies and advanced materials applications, he has established a consulting company – Quasar ScienceTech (www.quasarsciencetech.com) to provide multidisciplinary science and technology consulting in the areas of Natural & Applied Sciences, Clean Technologies & Energy, Waste Conversion, Technical Due Diligence, Climate Change Mitigation, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Innovation, and Advanced Materials Applications.

Europe’s Mandatory Circular Economy Rules: Lessons for Canada

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As part of its continuous effort to transform Europe’s economy into a more sustainable one and to implement the ambitious Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission recently adopted a new set of measures, including:

  • A Europe-wide EU Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy and annex to transform the way plastics and plastics products are designed, produced, used and recycled. By 2030, all plastics packaging should be recyclable. The Strategy also highlights the need for specific measures, possibly a legislative instrument, to reduce the impact of single-use plastics, particularly in our seas and oceans.  To reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment, the Commission has adopted a new proposal on Port Reception Facilities, to tackle sea-based marine litter and published a report on the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic, including oxo-degradable plastic carrier bags, on the environment.
  • A Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation that assesses how the rules on waste, products and chemicals relate to each other.
  • Monitoring Framework on progress towards a circular economy at EU and national level. It is composed of a set of ten key indicators which cover each phase – i.e. production, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials – as well as economic aspects – investments and jobs – and innovation.
  • Report on Critical Raw Materials and the circular economy that highlights the potential to make the use of the 27 critical materials in our economy more circular.

As part of the Circular Economy package, Member States will have to ensure that, all biowaste (including food waste) is either collected separately or composted by 2023.  The requirement for separation of collecting biowaste separately is seen as a huge boost for the composting and anaerobic digestion industries.

In Canada, Ontario is one province that appears poised to require mandatory separation of organic waste at the curbside.  In late 2016, Ontario proclaimed the Waste Free Ontario Act, comprising the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act.  Specific regulations under the new Act has yet to be promulgated but it is speculated by some that a ban on landfilling source separated organics (also referred to as green bin waste) will be part of the new regulations.  In the Spring, the Ontario government finalized the Food and Organic Waste Framework after consultations with stakeholders.  The Framework includes actions and policies that seek to prevent and reduce food and organic waste, rescue surplus food, collect and recover food and organic waste, and support beneficial uses.

A burning question with respect to the Waste Free Ontario Act and any new regulations is what action the new Progressive Conservative Government will take.  The Progressive Conservatives were voted into power in Ontario in a Spring election, taking over from the Liberals who had run the province for 15 years.  The new Ontario government has already scrapped Greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in Province.

Source: Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016