Can-Am Recycling of Batteries Made Easier Under New Cross-Border Regulation

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by Jonathan Cocker, Baker McKenzie

The interprovincial and international movement of hazardous recyclable materials, such as used batteries, is already big business and will only grow in the coming years in North America. Internationally, no less than 99% of all (lawful) hazardous recyclables (and hazardous waste) exported from, or imported to, Canada are with the United States.

The coming restrictions under amendments to the Basel Convention will also strengthen and foster demand for North American-based hazardous materials recycling as transfers to developing countries will be increasingly prohibited. The soon-to-be-replaced Canadian legal regime governing flows of such materials, however, has not evolved to match the market opportunities.

What was the Problem?

For starters, there are two principal outgoing federal regulations regarding the movement of hazardous recyclables and hazardous wastes:

  • the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations (Export and Import Regulations); and
  • the Interprovincial Movement of Hazardous Waste Regulations (Interprovincial Movement Regulations)

These use different definitions of hazardous recyclables and hazardous wastes and mandate different movement documents, with neither adopting an electronic tracking system. The third hazardous waste law, the PCB Waste Export Regulations, 1996 set PCB concentration limits which rendered it incapable of facilitating exports to either the United States or elsewhere. As a result, there have been no PCB waste exports.

In short, a more commercially-responsive regime was desperately needed.

Growing International Alignment with New Cross-Border Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations 

The new Cross-Border Movement Regulations, in final approval stages now with a 6-month lead time period to bring into force, combines the three regulations into one and adopts single definitions and processes for both interprovincial and international movements of hazardous recyclables and hazardous waste.

More notably, the Cross-Border Movement Regulation also seeks to harmonize the adopted definitions with accepted definitions in other jurisdictions (including the US) and international agreements. In other words, the international flows of hazardous recyclables and wastes no longer allow Canada to mainly uniquely domestic (if not parochial) practices.

Clarity on Battery Recyclables and Wastes Harmonizes Globally

The Export and Import Regulations did not expressly address used batteries, creating uncertainly as to which types must be treated as either hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable material. Some types of batteries were clearly caught – but there was uncertainly around certain categories.

The Cross-Border Regulations clarifies that all types of batteries (both rechargeable and non-rechargeable) being shipped internationally or interprovincially for disposal or recycling are regulated. Further, this expanded inclusion of used batteries is consistent with international standards, allowing the battery industry to more easily include Canada in multinational strategies for the resource recovery of these materials, while adhering to increasing restrictions as to where such recycling can take place.

Regional Battery Recycling Hubs to Grow?

With a growing move away from locally-mandated recycling towards open international markets for the delivery of recycling and other resource recovery services, the changes under the Cross-Border Regulation affecting used batteries could not have come too soon.

Further, circular economy laws imposing individual producer responsibility on the battery industry may well now allow battery producers to consider regionalizing its used battery recovery operations to best capture economies of scale without the regulatory difficulties in Canada now addressed by the Cross-Border Regulations.


The time is now for the North American battery industry to strengthen and extend their reverse supply chains across provincial /territorial boundaries and the US-Canadian border as the best available commercial strategy.


This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published in Environmental Law Insights.

About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’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).

Ontario Government issues Waste Reduction Discussion Paper

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The Ontario government recently released a discussion document entitled
Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities: Discussion Paper
, which reaffirms the Province’s commitment to the 3Rs and diversion from landfill including Ontario’s curbside Blue Box Program, municipal green bin programs for organics, and other waste recovery options.

The 29-page discussion document expands upon the commitments made by the Ontario government in December 2018 when it released Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. The paper poses questions that will help guide future decision-making to divert more waste from landfill.

The Discussion Paper acknowledges that existing and emerging technologies are increasingly allowing society to recover and recycle materials back into the economy rather than sending them to landfill. This is helping society to better protect communities and keep the air, land and water clean and healthy.

The discussion paper outlines eight key areas for action:

  1. prevent and reduce litter in our neighbourhoods and parks
  2. increase opportunities for Ontarians to reduce and divert waste at home, at work and on the go
  3. make producers responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging
  4. reduce and divert food and organic waste from households and businesses
  5. reduce plastic waste going into landfills and waterways
  6. provide clear rules for compostable products and packaging
  7. recover the value of resources in waste
  8. support competitive and sustainable end-markets for Ontario’s waste

These eight areas of action are the steps the the government will take to make waste reduction, reuse, and recycling easier.

One key aspect of the discussion paper is the commitment by the government to making producers responsible for the waste generated by their products and packaging, encouraging them to find new and innovative cost-effective ways to recycle their products and lower costs for consumers. If the proposals in the discussion document are implemented, the transition to extended producer responsibility will increase the amount of household material recycled, while shifting the cost of recycling from municipalities – and taxpayers – to producers.

The discussion paper sets out goals, actions and performance measures and outlines how the government will decrease the amount of waste going to landfill and increase the province’s overall diversion rate.

The discussion paper is posted on the Ontario Environmental Registry for public comment. The deadline for public comment is April 20th 2019. The government states that the feedback on the discussion paper will help the province to move forward with a clear, comprehensive and outcome-based approach to reducing litter and waste.

Ski Slope on the roof the Copenhagen’s New WTE Facility

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The City of Copenhagen’s new waste-to-energy facility has quickly become a popular destination with the city’s residents as it has a 600 metre ski slope on its roof.

The idea of topping a municipal plant with an urban ski resort won a string of accolades for the Danish architecture firm Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). The park itself was designed by SLA Architects. Two years ago the architectural model went on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In an interview with the Guardian, city resident Ole Fredslund said, “I live so close by that I could follow the development. I guess 90% of the focus is on the fact that there’s a skiing hill coming, so in a way it’s very clever. Everybody talks about the ski hill to be, not the waste plant to be.”

Photograph: Mads Claus Rasmussen/EPA

The entire WTE facility cost $840 million Canadian to construct. The facility sits on top of a plant that has been producing heating for homes since 1970. Work began on the facility in 2013.

Eventually, the entire ski run will be divided into three slopes with a green sliding synthetic surface, plus a recreational hiking area and an 80 meter (264 foot) climbing wall. Once the whole project is completed, the roof will contain ski slopes, green spaces and hiking trails. The slopes will have ski lifts to take people up to the top of the runs.

The innovative waste-to-energy plant can burn 31 tonnes of waste per hour while cutting emissions by 99.5%, which makes it capable of converting 360,000 tonnes of waste every year. Its total net energy efficiency of 107% is among the highest in the world for a waste-to-energy facility

The plant currently processes waste from 550,000 residents and 45,000 businesses and produces electricity and heating to approximately 150,000 households.

Babcock & Wilcox Vølund designed and built the facility. It is owned and operated by Amager Ressourcecenter (ARC), a corporation jointly owned by five Copenhagen-area municipalities.

Image courtesy of SLA Architects

Fish waste used to fertilize cannabis plants


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.

UN Report Highlights Environmental, Health Risks from E-Waste

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As reported by the IISD, Seven UN entities released a report calling for a new vision for e-waste based on the circular economy. The report highlights that annual e-waste production is worth over USD 62.5 billion, underscoring the significant opportunity in moving towards a circular economy.

The report titled, ‘A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot,’ finds that the global economy generates approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste annually, or approximately six kilograms per person on the planet. Less than 20 percent of this e-waste is recycled, resulting in global health and environmental risks to workers who are exposed to carcinogenic and hazardous substances, such as cadmium, lead and mercury, and to soil and groundwater, which are contaminated by e-waste in landfills, placing food and water systems at risk. Low recycling rates also contribute to the loss of scarce and valuable natural materials: for example, up to seven percent of the world’s gold may be currently contained in e-waste. Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the UN University (UNU) predicts e-waste could nearly triple to 120 million tonnes by 2050.

“There is a trail of e-waste generated from old technology” that needs to be addressed, the report states. One-half of all e-waste is personal devices, such as smartphones, screens, computers, tablets and TVs, and the rest is household appliances and heating and cooling equipment. Europe and the US generate nearly one-half of global e-waste annually.

The report argues that systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), civil society and other stakeholders is necessary to change the system and reduce e-waste. The report calls for a circular economy in which resources are valued and reused in ways that create decent, sustainable jobs and minimize environmental impacts. To capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and circular value chains, the report suggests manufacturer or retailer take-back programs and better product tracking. The report also recommends developing recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains. Further, the report explains that cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) can support gradual de-materialization of the electronics industry.

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PAGE) produced the report on behalf of seven UN entities that collaborate on the E-waste Coalition: the ILO; the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); UNEP, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), UNU and the Secretariats of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, with support from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The UN launched the report at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland. 

Results of Waste Data Analysis in British Columbia vs. other Provinces

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Vancity Credit Union recently published the results of a waste data analysis study it conducted in British Columbia. The results show that B.C. residents dispose of 549 kg of waste per year per resident. The total disposal rate is the second lowest per capita for a province in Canada. Nova Scotia residents generate the least amount of waste on a per capita basis.

The report, entitled State of Waste: How B.C. compares in the war on trash
looked at detailed data from municipal, provincial, and national databases. It concludes that while B.C. industries, businesses, and individuals are taking steps to curtail their production of waste, local reduction, compost and recycling targets aren’t on track and will likely be missed. The report also reveals that Delta has emerged as Metro Vancouver’s biggest producer of domestic trash, generating 465 kilograms for every single family residence in 2017, while Vancouver more than doubled North Vancouver’s production per single family residence.

Most solid waste produced in the region consists of construction debris, uneaten food and soiled paper.

The report also found:

  • B.C. produced 549 kilograms of garbage per person in 2016, which is 30 per cent less than the national average but almost 60 per cent more than a province-wide target for the year 2020.
  • B.C. diverted 40 per cent of its solid municipal waste from landfill and incineration to recycling and compost facilities, more than all other Canadian provinces except Nova Scotia, but well behind a common regional and municipal target of 80 per cent for the year 2020.
  • Spoiled and uneaten food – most of which could be diverted as compost – represents about 25 per cent of all residential garbage that is either thrown into B.C. landfills or is incinerated.
  • Half of all waste diverted in Metro Vancouver in 2016 came from the demolition, construction and land-clearing sector, with concrete the most common material diverted.

“B.C. is a leader when it comes to waste reduction and diversion, but more strategies are needed to track and improve results,” stated Morgan Beall, Vancity’s environmental sustainability portfolio manager, in a press release. “The province’s capacity to absorb waste is constantly being stretched. We all have a responsibility to eliminate waste.”

The report acknowledges that it was difficult to precisely determine the amounts of waste generated, disposed and diverted and what can ultimately be avoided in each municipality and province because reporting methods vary by jurisdiction. The report calls on governments at all levels to introduce measures that standardize and make public all waste collection, diversion and disposal data.

The author of the report, Vancity, is a values-based financial co-operative serving the needs of its more than 525,000 member-owners British Columbia. With $26.4 billion in assets plus assets under administration, Vancity is Canada’s largest community credit union. Vancity uses its assets to help improve the financial well-being of its members while at the same time helping to develop healthy communities that are socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. Vancity branches divert 88% of their waste from landfill and 49 of 59 branches are net zero waste (no waste is taken to landfill).

Why a “bin ban”​ on textile donation bins is a huge mistake

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

Preface: For the purposes of full disclosure, York University and Diabetes Canada have partnered to form Canada’s first municipal textile diversion strategy. I am enormously proud of the work that has been done and what we have achieved over the past two years. The tireless efforts of Diabetes Canada, other charities, municipalities, and external stakeholders has been instrumental in diverting more than 15 million pounds of textiles from landfills and generating millions of dollars in life saving Diabetes Research. 

The university does not receive any financial re-numeration for our partnership with Diabetes Canada.

With that being said, the opinions expressed in this article are mine and mine alone – I feel compelled to comment on the issue given the recent incidents involving clothing bins in British Columbia and Ontario.

First and foremost, it is important to acknowledge the tragic loss of two lives. The questions surrounding bin safety and how to prevent this moving forward are valid and need to be answered.

However, banning bins is an extremely short cited measure – one that is driven by emotion and media furor instead of identifying practical solutions. If were are to believe some of the recent news stories, it would make you think that bin related injuries are an epidemic and pose a safety risk to the broader community.

The truth however is that bin related injuries/death are extremely rare. To provide context, fatalities attributable to falling signage are more than 5 times greater than bin related accidents. I don’t say this to discount the severity of what has occurred – truthfully, one bin injury/fatality is one too many. This necessitates that we should be exploring options that make bins safer, instead of calling for an outright ban.

Banning bins addresses a symptom (scavenging and temporary shelter), but does nothing to address the root cause (poverty). Greater emphasis should be placed on providing marginal communities with access to adequate resources and shelter. There may even be opportunities to curtail scavenging by engaging directly with poverty advocacy groups and providing textile donations to communities in need.  

Another concern is that banning bins has a significant economic, environmental and social impact. From an environmental perspective, a bin ban would result in thousands of tonnes of textiles going to landfill. Unlike other waste streams, textiles are not part of residential waste programs. Clothing bins play a critical role in diverting textiles, and their elimination would be a significant blow to an already limited textile collection infrastructure. Every tonne of textiles that ends up going to a landfill, will directly result in increased costs for municipalities through increased tipping fees.

The economic implications of a ban also adversely affects charitable organizations (Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Make a Wish foundation, STEPS etc.), by cutting off a valuable revenue source. These are organizations that serve millions of Canadians – even the smallest drop in revenue can compromise their ability to provide programming, services and conduct research.

It is important to remember that not all bins and not all service providers are created equal (both with respect to the actual bin and the organizations that service them). At present, charitable organizations operate in parallel with for profit operators (who often masquerade as charities). This not only makes it difficult for the public to identify where their donation is going, but potentially comprises public safety due to a lack of standardization and service.

Instances of scavenging and bin related injury tend to be higher with bins operated by for profit organizations (some, not all). Unlike charitable bins, there is no standard bin design, resulting in bins that vary widely with respect to both their safety and ease of access. 

See figures below for bin examples.

This tragedy represents an opportunity to improve upon our existing textile diversion strategy, identifying best practices in both bin design and program implementation. Standardization with respect to how bins are designed and how those bins should be placed and serviced will be critical in mitigating against future incidents. 

Instead of an instinctive knee jerk reaction on the part of the public to the recent high profile deaths, we should look at this as opportunity to map out what is needed to create effective, sustainable and safe textile diversion solutions. 

A bin ban will ultimately hurt more Canadians than it helps. Now is the time to define how we want our textile diversion programs to run. Safety and used textile collection do not have to be mutually incompatible pursuits. 

This article is republished with the permission of the author.


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. 

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.


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.


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


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.

Toronto Company developing technology to turn waste to bioplastics

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Genecis Bioindustries, a cleantech start-up based in Toronto, is in the process of commercializing an anaerobic digestion technology that converts food waste to Polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs).

PHAs are a unique types of plastics as they are bio-based (produced via microorganisms vs. petroleum based) and are also biodegradable.  PHAs (and bioplastics in general) are considered by some professionals in the waste-to-product sector as very attractive materials for three primary reasons: they can be created from renewable sources, they can also biodegrade, and they are biocompatible (not harmful to living tissue).

PHA bioplastic pellets

Research and development on manufacturing bioplastics from waste using microorganisms has been ongoing around the world for the past decade.  Some researchers have focused on specific organic waste such as banana peels or potato peelings  to produce bioplastics.

The promise of using waste to make bioplastics is considered good news by some environmental activists and other industry players since it could potentially replace the use of agricultural products (i.e., corn) in the production of bioplastics.

Genecis Technology

The production of PHAs from food waste is accomplished via anaerobic digestion. First, the company treats food waste with heat, acid and mechanical grinding. Next, anaerobic bacteria break the waste into fatty acids in an anaerobic bioreactor. The fatty acids are then introduced to another bacteria culture that converts the feedstock into PHA. Genecis then collects the PHA and coverts that into bioplastic pellets.

The patented and propriety expertise of Genecis lies in the company’s ability to modify the mechanical properties and biocompatibility of PHA polymers by adjusting bacteria composition in the bioreactor, and the blending of the food waste feedstock.  This allows the company to make a wider range of PHA polymers creating a wider range of applications of the product.

Some applications in which PHAs plastics include packaging for foods, beverages, consumer products; medical applications; and agricultural foils and films.  PHAs can also be moulded into 3D printing filament.

Compared to traditional waste processing technology, like traditional anaerobic digestors, Genecis claims that its technology can generate 7 times greater revenue output, per unit tonne of waste processed, within 1/3 of the time. As the company continues to develop its synthetic biology platform, the shared profit margins further increases with each new generation of bacteria.


To date, Genecis has scaled up to a pilot production line, secured a 2 year partnership with Sodexo.  Sodexo is a provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services. Sodexo’s National Corporate Social Responsibility Manager – Meaghan Beck stated “Our partnership with Genecis Bioindustries Inc. inspires me that creative solutions do exist to solve our world’s food waste and landfill issues. (….) I couldn’t be more proud of Sodexo working with the Genecis team.”

Sodexo recently announced a North American Single Use Plastics Reduction Plan that will eliminate single use plastic bags and stirrers by 2019, polystyrene foam items such as cups, lids and food containers by 2025, and shift straws to a “by request” item that will still be available to customers who need them while moving toward more sustainable materials.

Besides Sodexo, Genecis has 14 other partnerships, which include waste processing companies and manufactured bioplastics buyers. Many of these partners are also locally based firms.

About Genecis

Luna Lu, Genecis Bioindustries Founder

Genecis Bioindustries was founded by Luna Yu, a graduate student from University of Toronto, and currently has a team of 12 engineers and scientists as well as members with business experience.  The company started on the campus at University of Toronto in 2016.

Ms. Yu first realized the potential of food waste after completing her studies at University of Toronto in Environmental Science.  “What appealed the most to me was the ability to integrate advancements in artificial intelligence, big data, automation, and genetic engineering together to build the platform for the next generation of industrial chemical manufacturing,” told the Varsity, the University of Toronto Student newspaper.

The company’s main value proposition is to make chemicals [or] materials currently too expensive [or] difficult to produce traditionally more economical.

Next steps

The company is leveraging advancements in artificial intelligence, bioinformatics, and genetic engineering to take their development to the next level. They recently partnered with a waste company, and aims to jointly scale up to an Industrial Demonstration Plant by the end of 2019.

Genecis is working to license its production technology to companies in the waste management sector, providing them a profitable solution to dispose of organic waste.