Global Companies form an Alliance to End Plastic Waste

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Nearly 30 major global companies have joined together to form an Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) and have committed over $1.0 billion to develop, deploy and bring to scale solutions to reduce and manage such waste, and to promote post-use solutions. The companies, which span the entire plastics value chain, expect to invest $1.5 billion over the next five years.

The alliance is being chaired by David Taylor, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble (multi-national consumer goods corporation). The Vice President of the AEPW is Bob Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell (one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world).

In addition to Procter & Gamble, AEPW has drawn other big guns from across the value chain. Other founding companies – from throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East – include BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, Henkel, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis (Eni).

The Alliance is a not-for-profit organization that includes companies that make, use, sell, process, collect, and recycle plastics. This includes chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, also known as the plastics value chain. The Alliance has been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner. The Alliance today also announced an initial set of projects and collaborations that reflect a range of solutions to help end plastic waste:

With participation from chemical and plastic manufacturers, consumer goods companies, retailers, converters, and waste management companies, the alliance membership has representation across the entire plastics value chain. The alliance has also been working with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development as a founding strategic partner

In the months ahead, the Alliance will make additional investments and drive progress in four key areas:

  • Infrastructure development to collect and manage waste and increase recycling;
  • Innovation to advance and scale new technologies that make recycling and recovering plastics easier and create value from all post-use plastics;
  • Education and engagement of governments, businesses, and communities to mobilize action; and,
  • Clean up of concentrated areas of plastic waste already in the environment, particularly the major conduits of waste, like rivers, that carry land-based plastic waste to the sea.

The Alliance also announced an initial set of projects and collaborations that reflect a range of solutions to help end plastic waste. Initial projects and collaborations include:

  • Partnering with cities to design integrated waste management systems in large urban areas where infrastructure is lacking, especially those along the rivers that transport large amounts of plastic waste from land to the ocean.
  • Funding The Incubator Network by Circulate Capital to develop and promote technologies, business models and entrepreneurs that prevent ocean plastic waste and improve waste management and recycling, with the intention of creating a pipeline of projects for investment; the initial focus area will be Southeast Asia.
  • Developing an open source, science-based global information project to support waste management projects globally with reliable data collection, metrics, standards, and methodologies to help governments, companies, and investors accelerate actions to stop plastic waste from entering the environment.
  • Creating a capacity building collaboration with intergovernmental organizations such as the United Nations to conduct joint workshops and trainings for government officials and community leaders to help identify and pursue the most effective solutions.
  • Supporting Renew Oceansto aid localized investment and engagement. The program is designed to capture plastic waste before it reaches the ocean from the ten major rivers shown to carry the vast majority of land-based waste to the ocean. The initial work will support the Renew Ganga project, which has also received support from the National Geographic Society.

The alliance will focus on collaboration and coordinated efforts across the value chain, working on projects focused on near-term progress as well as those that require major investments with longer timelines. “Addressing plastic waste in the environment and developing a circular economy of plastics requires the participation of everyone across the entire value chain and the long term commitment of businesses, governments, and communities. No one country, company or community can solve this on their own,” says Veolia CEO Antoine Frérot, a vice chairman of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

Research from the Ocean Conservancy shows that nearly 80 percent of plastic waste in the ocean begins as litter on land, the vast majority of which travels to the sea by rivers. In fact one study estimates that over 90 percent of river borne plastic in the ocean comes from 10 major rivers around the world – eight in Asia, and two in Africa. Sixty percent of plastic waste in the ocean can be sourced to five countries in Southeast Asia.

For more information, please visit www.endplasticwaste.org

Nexxsource Recycling Sold

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North West Rubber Ltd. (NWR) and Moose Creek Tire Recycling Inc. (MCTR) a Subsidiary of Animat Inc. recently announced their acquisition of the assets of Nexxsource Recycling (and all related companies). The new company will operate under the name Evolve Recycling Inc. (Evolve), and will also include Trillium MC Inc., MCTR’s tire hauling subsidiary. Evolve is headquartered at 300 Henry Street, Brantford, Ontario.

Evolve is a major transporter and processor of end-of-life tires in Canada, with operations spanning Manitoba and Ontario. Evolve processes these tires into various end-products.

In Ontario, producers and importers of tires must comply with the Regulations made under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016. Most tires go to tire recycling operations such at the Nexxsource (Evolve) facility in Brantford.

The nearly named Evolve tire recycling facility in Brantford recently applied for an amendment to its existing Environmental Compliance Approval (waste disposal) to all it to store tires outside. In 2016, when the facility was operating at Liberty Tire Recycling Canada Ltd., its application for an amendment to its Environmental Compliance Approval (waste disposal) was denied by the Ontario Environment Ministry. The 2016 amendment request was rejected due to complaints/fire accidents about the plant operations.

NWR, headquartered in Abbotsford, B.C., has been in business since 1968. It has rubber product manufacturing facilities in B.C., Ontario, China, and is currently constructing a manufacturing facility in Texas. NWR produces and supplies a wide variety of flooring, matting, and industrial products to several Retail and Industrial markets throughout North America.

MCTR, whose majority shareholder is Ani-mat Inc., has been in business for 10 years, although Ani-mat (headquartered in Sherbrooke, QC) has been in business since 1983. MCTR/Ani-mat have manufacturing facilities in Ontario and Quebec, and supply a wide variety of products all over the world for various uses in the dairy and equine industries, and as anti-fatigue mats and floor protection in commercial and industrial areas.

Single Use Coffee Cup – The Recycling Challenge

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by Rebecca Zarmon, Sheridan College

Individual Parts are Recyclable

Polyethylene is one of the most prolific polymers in industry; it is used for plastic bags, food films, bottles, cutting boards, toys, insulation, and many other objects.  Disposable coffee cups are a prolific source of waste throughout Canada and North America.  These cups are typically constructed of paper with a Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) lining, and have lids made of high impact polystyrene (HIPS).

While paper, HIPS, and LDPE are individually considered recyclable, the three materials require different treatment to be recycled, and are not recyclable when they are mixed together, such as they are in a coffee cup.  Most disposal coffee cups end up in landfills and the LDPE ends up as microplastics that have become pervasive throughout most of our ecosystem.

Generation

Polyethylene is a polymer—a chain of repeating compounds—of ethene, ????????# = ????????#, from the catalytic cracking of crude oil.  Depending on the pressure used during the process, polyethylene can be categorised as low density or high density.  LDPE is made under high pressure and has many branching chains, resulting in a flexible plastic.  HIPS is made under low pressure and is very linear, with few branches and is more rigid.  Polyethylene is resistant to degradation from food and most water based mixtures, which makes it very popular for use in the food industry.

Disposable paper cups are generated by restaurant industry, fast food industry, coffee shops, supermarkets, and food trucks, to name a few.  It is also possible to buy a package of disposable coffee cups for personal use from retail stores.  Disposable coffee cups are seen everywhere, and it is not uncommon for a customer to purchase multiple disposable cups from the food industry in a single day.  It was estimated that 1.5 billion disposable coffee cups were used in Canada in 2010, with 1 million cups per day being sent to a landfill from the City of Toronto alone.

Material Handling and Recycling

Polyethylene can be sent to a recycling facility.  To recycle LDPE and retain high quality plastic, the used LDPE must be separated from other materials, including other plastics and HDPE.  The separated plastic must be cleaned and dried and formed back into pellets.

Separation of the LDPE is typically done manually, by humans.  In some businesses, such as the cosmetics company LUSH, washing is also done manually.  While these processes add to the cost of recycling plastics like LDPE, it is still often worth recycling, and many facilities dedicated to recycling plastics exist throughout the country.  An example of a company that recycles plastic is Nexcycle Canada Ltd., located in Brampton, Ontario.  Besides recycling glass, Nexcycle recycles LDPE, HDPE, and polypropylene (PP).  

Recycled HDPE from Nexcycle

Disposable cups are often marketed as recyclable or compostable, due to the materials individually being recyclable or compostable.  Paper is well known for being recyclable and compostable, but as with polyethylene, the paper must be separated from other materials cleaned to be recycled into new paper products.  This presents a problem for disposable paper cups, as they are lined with LDPE, which must be removed before either component can be recycled.  The process to separate the LDPE lining and the paper is very difficult and as a result, most coffee cups end up in landfill or being incinerated.

Environmental Impacts

Polymers, including polyethylene, require about 100 MJ of energy expenditure to produce 1 kg of product and release about 10,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) to the atmosphere annually.  Paper and cardboard require about 30 MJ of energy to produce 1 kg of product and release about 10,500,000 tonnes of CO2e to the atmosphere annually.

The production of a disposal coffee cup has an impact on greenhouse gas emissions.  Professor Michael F. Ashby at the University of Cambridge determined the production of an average disposable cup weighing about  18 grams can generate 28 grams of CO2 equivalents, effectively 1.5 times its mass.

There are potential human health impacts from the use of disposal coffee cups.  When cups are used under excessive heat, such as the near boiling temperatures of coffee and tea, the LDPE lining breaks down and enters the liquid, which is then ingested.

If coffee cups enter the organics recycling stream, problems result.  The paper in the cup degrades quickly.  However, the polyethylene coating on the cup does not degrade and coffee cups that enter the organic waste or recycle streams end up contaminating the process.  

When polyethylene ends up in a lake or ocean, the plastic begins to degrade into smaller pieces, but does not decompose.  Once the piece of plastic become less than 5 mm in size, they are categorised as microplastics. These microplastics are easily ingested by aquatic life, which are ingested by other animals eating the aquatic animals.  Because the microplastics do not decompose, they have managed to spread across the food chain, including humans.

Potential Solutions

The “Four R’s” of waste management is a hierarchal strategy to manage waste at all points of its life cycle.  The first of the four is to reduce the amount of waste at the point of generation.

Replacements for polyethylene and other plastics have been studied, such as using guar gum and citric acid as a food grade lining, but the replacement does not produce as effective of a lining and the currently low cost and high durability of polyethylene prevents from any alternatives from becoming more popular.  Some coffee shops have switched to cups labeled as biodegradable, but these cups still go to landfill as their lining is not biodegradable.

The second “R” is to reuse products.  Disposable paper cups are intended for single use, but many coffee shops offer monetary incentives for bringing a reusable mug instead of purchasing a disposable cup.  In 2008, less than 2% of Starbucks customers used reusable cups.  Starbucks initiated a campaign to improve the reusable cup rate to 25% by 2015.  Reusable cups were offered for sale in store at low prices and discounts were given to those who used reusable cups, but the percentage of customers using reusable cups stayed below 2% by 2015.

It is possible that Starbucks’ strategy did not work because it is not the pricing that influences people to use or not use disposable cups, but the lack of knowledge of the impacts disposable cups have.  Many people are unaware that most disposable cups are not recyclable nor compostable.  

The City of Toronto displays on their waste management page that disposable coffee cups go into the landfill stream, but still some jurisdictions claim to accept coffee cups into green or blue bins. Coffee shops also frequently have bins displaying coffee cups under the recycling sign.

In the UK, a study was done where signs explaining the impact of coffee cups were displayed in coffee shops in varying locations.  In most locations, the percentage of customers using reusable cups went up, the highest increase going from 7.5% of customers using a reusable mug to 24.0% of customers using a reusable mug.

The third “R” is recycling.  As previously discussed, recycling is not an ideal situation, as current technology to separate LDPE from paper is too expensive.  A number of organizations in Ontario are working to reduce the amount of disposable cups that end up in landfill as well.

A project in the UK called CupCycling from James Cropper turns the paper from the cups into usable paper by soaking and softening the paper, skimming off the plastic film, filtering out the inpurities and reusing the material for other marketable products for other products and uses and sends the plastic to a plastic recycler.

The “R” at the bottom—hence the least effective at managing waste—is recovery.  Recovery refers to the incineration of the waste, with the product of the incineration being used to fuel another process, thereby reducing energy generation. Most polyethylene lined paper cups that aren’t in a landfill end up being incinerated.

Conclusion

Polyethylene is a highly durable plastic that is capable of maintaining stability even when in contact with water and food, which makes it a highly valuable material in the food industry. These same characteristics lead polyethylene to being very difficult to eliminate from the environment and it often ends up as microplastics in the ocean and in the digestive systems of animals throughout the food chain. Although polyethylene is recyclable, it is often used as a lining in disposable cups, rendering otherwise recyclable materials as landfill waste.  Alternatives to polyethylene are possible, but as of yet not stable or cheap enough for companies to make the switch.

Currently, the best option to reduce the amount of polyethylene in landfills and oceans is to educate customers on the impacts of disposable coffee cups and promote the use of reusable mugs.

Fun with Waste: ArtFest in Fort Meyers, Florida

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The annual ArtFest Fort Meyers recently wrapped up its 2019 festival. Billed as southwest Florida’s premier art festival, 2019 event included a exhibit dedicated to waste and unique student art contest in which sculptures had to be composed of waste.

Lee County Solid Waste Management organized the waste art exhibit entitled “We Are Overflowing” to show the importance of preserving natural resources. At the exhibit, festival participants were able to see what art could be made from a pile of trash.

Donald Gialanella was selected from 42 talented artists who submitted artistic concepts for We Are Overflowing 2019.exhibit. His installation Dumpster Diving showcases ingenuity and imagination to convey the message “as a country we are overflowing with trash and recyclables.” It is made from re-purposed, discarded, and cast-off materials.

In his own words, Donald Gialanella talks about his art: “My art repurposes artifacts that are things people bought and eventually discarded, according to the vagaries of personal status and cultural values. The artwork comments on our curious relationship to the life-cycle of utilitarian objects. Seen as a mass of shapes formed into a single sculptural entity that explores temporality, disposability, and questions the viability of a material based culture.”

For the student art contest held at the festival, which prizes were award to students who made the best sculptures from from re-purposed, discarded and cast-off materials. Cash prizes were award to the Best in Show ($250), Best Creative Use of Materials ($150), Peoples Choice ($150), and more.

Molly Schweers, the communications specialist for Lee County Solid Waste Management, in an interview with a local TV station, Fox 4, stated the goal was to make more people aware of the waste getting disposed in the environment. “The idea behind our “Overflowing” exhibit was just to let people know that our rate of trash generation is exceeding our population growth. We’re just throwing away too much,” Schweers said.

Edmonton to trial curbside SSO progam

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As reported in the Edmonton Journal, residents in 8,00 homes in Edmonton, Alberta will be participating in a source separated organics (SSO) trial program.

Beginning in late February or early March, the selected households will place their organic waste in a separate bin for pickup.

All the participating homes will receive a green cart. Half will get a 120-litre black cart, and half will get a 240-litre black cart, said Mike Labrecque, city branch manager for waste services.

Recyclables will be picked up weekly, and there will two additional yard waste pickups in the spring and two more in the fall, Lebrecque said.

Just how waste separation might work in apartments and condos is still under discussion. Lebrecque said a timeline isn’t finalized yet, but he said it’s expected that the first phase of single-unit homes will be permanently switched to the compost-waste-recycling pick up in fall 2020, and the second phase is planned for spring 2021. There isn’t a timeline for multi-residential buildings yet.

Eventually, when the whole city is separating things like apple cores and eggshells from other waste, Lebrecque said the city estimates it will need to have the capacity to process 180,000 tonnes of organics annually.

A plan for the facility to process all the organics was also presented to committee recently. Staff studied the possibility of repairing the problems with the building that currently houses the city’s composting system, but ultimately recommended demolishing it and building a new anaerobic digestion facility in its place.

Edmonton is the only municipality in the region that isn’t already doing source-separated organics.

“We took a different approach,” said Lebrecque, referring to the previous program in which Edmontonians dumped their organics and other waste together and sent it to the curb to be separated at a city facility. There was also no volume limit on the amount of waste a household could set out to be collected.

A year ago, a city auditor’s report revealed the city was meeting just a fraction of its goal to divert 90 per cent of its waste from going into a landfill. The auditor looked back at years of data and found annual diversion rates between 35.7 per cent and 49.5 per cent.

Ontario: Electronics & Batteries Producer Responsibility Consultation Ends February 6th, 2019

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As part of the legal directive to transfer current government-overseen waste diversion obligations to a privately-run Individual Producer Responsibility regime (IPR), the Ontario Ministry of the Environment is currently holding consultations with stakeholders in the electronics/electrical equipment (EEE) and batteries industries regarding the coming circular economy regulation for EEE and batteries (and their packaging) and key decisions affecting industry are in the process of being made.

What’s the Mandate?

In understanding the anticipated reach of the EEE/Batteries Regulation, the Ministry is overtly promoting three goals:

  • Improved Environmental Outcomes, including reduction of toxics in landfill and related greenhouse gases;
  • Economic Growth, such as building more “infrastructure for reuse, refurbishment and recycling industries”; and
  • Consistency, Ease, Cost Efficiency and Reduced Burden, with an emphasis on shifting the costs of waste management to individual producers and consumers with the hope that more “competition, innovation and better product design” will result.

To help relieve municipalities of waste handling obligations, and to get itself out of the business of end-of-life product diversion (which it seems intent on doing), the Ministry is giving the EEE/Batteries Regulations a potentially broad and expansionist scope. As of July 1st, 2020, EEE and batteries “producers” will be compelled to resource recover the products (or equivalencies) they put into the Ontario market.

What Could Be Caught under the EEE/Batteries Regulation?

It seems likely that the product categories of one or both of these current diversion programs will be broaden under IPR to include the:

  • likely expansion from the existing 44 types of EEE to capture some or all of:
    • headphones;
    • routers;
    • large and small appliances; and
    • power tools and some categories of lighting.
  • near certain addition of rechargeable batteries;
  • maybe very limited types of EEE and/or batteries embedded in other products; and
  • remote prospect of obligating primary, convenience and/or transportation package used with EEE and/or batteries – given paper/packaging IPR has not yet been implemented in the province.

The addition of products not currently obligated under waste diversion will create immediate needs and opportunities for industries to find new resource recovery solutions to meet these needs.

Who’s Obligated under IPR?

Along with the group of currently obligated producers – namely resident brand owners and resident importers (and, for EEE, assemblers), the Ministry is considering adding one or more other parties which have a “commercial connection” to the products, such as non-resident:

  • importers;
  • wholesalers;
  • licencees;
  • retailers (including on-line out-of-province); and
  • distributors

Many of these companies would not necessarily replace any existing resident parties, but would, instead, be default-obligated for products with no resident “producers”.  The sanctions contemplated for non-compliance under the EEE/Batteries Regulation may well include a prohibition against the sale of products failing to meet their resource recovery targets.

Will it be Like the Tire Regulation?

More than a year ago, stakeholders in the EEE and batteries space were already paying close attention to the Ministry’s implementation of the Tire Regulation, North America’s first comprehensive circular economy law.  Given the breadth of obligations, including the producer’s private obligation to run a reverse supply chain, it’s anticipated that affected companies may respond similarly – coalescing around a limited number of producer responsibility organizations based upon commercial, industry, and market commonalities, to run end-of-life product networks that meet the unique needs of the separate producer groups.

Industry also learned through the Tire Regulation process that critical commercial outcomes can be based upon the content of the regulatory requirements and that full advantage should be taken of the windows of opportunity offered to engage the Ministry on key facets of the coming law.  One such window for EEE and batteries stakeholders is closing on February 6th, 2019.


This has been republished with the permission of Baker MacKenzie. It was first published on the Baker Mackenzie website.

About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of its Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining & Infrastructure groups. He participated in founding one of North America’s first circular economy producer responsibility organizations. Jonathan 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 most recently the author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).

Nova Scotia amends rules to allow waste-to-energy projects

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The Government of Nova Scotia recently gave the green light to waste-to-energy projects in the province. Nova Scotia’s solid waste regulations have been amended to allow thermal treatment facilities to turn plastic, cardboard and newsprint into energy. The changes clarify that the province considers energy recovery as waste diversion.

All waste-to-energy facilities will require an environmental assessment and industrial approvals before going ahead.

A potential benefactor of the amended regulation is Sustane Technologies based in Chester, Nova Scotia. The company is in the process of constructing a waste-to-pellets facility. Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) provided $2.6 million in funding assistance in 2017 for the development of the facility.

At the media event in 2017 announcing the SDTC funding award, Leah Lawrence, President and CEO of SDTC, stated: “Sustane’s first-of-its-kind technology converts waste into useful products like synthetic diesel and recycled metal and plastic, potentially eliminating the need for landfills. This Nova Scotia–based company’s technology has applications around the world, and SDTC is proud to be its partner.” 

When fully constructed and operational, the plant will transform up to 70,000 tonnes per year of MSW into 35,000 tonnes per year of biomass pellets, 3.5 million litres per year of diesel fuel, plus recyclable metals.  The project will increase landfill diversion rates for Chester, Valley Waste Authority (Annapolis Valley) and Municipal Joint Services Board from approximately 50% to over 90%.

The project broke ground in March 2017 and is currently undergoing testing with full operation expected in Q1 of 2019.

A waste audit in 2017 by Divert Nova Scotia found 43 per cent of the garbage being sent to landfills is banned material that could have been composted or recycled. 

According to the province’s news release, recyclable materials will still be banned from landfills.

“Nova Scotians are national leaders in waste diversion, but there is still more we can do to keep waste out of our landfills,” Environment Minister Margaret Miller said in a news release. “We want Nova Scotians to continue to recycle and compost, but we also need to ensure we’re doing all we can to reduce our footprint. This will give new businesses the chance to create something useful from waste destined for landfills.”

Gordon Helm, Chief Technical Officer at Fourth State Energy & Nova Waste Solutions Inc., said “This is very exciting news for Nova Scotia, and the government’s stated intention to modernize our solid waste resource management regime. It’s a major step in reducing the harmful environmental impacts of active landfilling and the generations of emissions of methane GHG and the production of millions of litres of toxic leachate.”

Mr. Helm added, “Advanced thermal conversion technologies are a proven, cost effective, and energy efficient alternative to landfills and incineration. We can and need to continue to do more in terms of reducing waste resources, but waiting for the all or nothing solution is not the answer … In the end, any solution that moves us towards ending active landfilling is a worthy effort.”

Nova Scotians, on a per capita basis, send the least amount of waste to landfill – 404 kilograms of waste per person per year. The national average is 688 kilograms of waste landfilled per person per year.