Two Founders of Waste Management Companies on Top 10 List of Canadian Cleantech Entrepreneurs

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Luna Yu converts waste into game-changing products

According to Second Harvest, a staggering 58 percent of all food produced in Canada is lost or wasted, representing 56.6 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions. Luna Yu founded her cleantech company to do something about it. Started at the University of Toronto and accelerated by the Women in Cleantech Challenge, Yu’s Genecis converts food waste into biodegradable plastics and other materials. The startup uses bacteria to break down food waste into short-chain carbons, and then another type of bacteria to eat those carbons and convert them into a polymer called PHA. Unlike other types of compostable goods (like oil-based plastic cups), Genecis’s products can be composted within a month, and degrade within a year should they end up in the ocean.

What’s next: Recently crowned the Extreme Tech Challenge’s global winner in the Cleantech and Energy Category, Genecis is scaling up by courting new clients looking to replace existing product lines. “We used the lockdown as an opportunity to reflect on what matters most and empathize with customers,” says Yu. “I’m really proud of how our team excelled in this period of change.”

Brandon Moffatt transforms trash into energy

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has been taken quite literally by London, Ont.–based StormFisher. Started in 2006 by three founders — Brandon Moffatt, Chris Guillon and Pearce Fallis — StormFisher’s biogas facility now converts more than 100,000 tonnes of organic waste each year into renewable energy, organic fertilizers and feedstock. With a focus on sustainable organics and power-to-gas projects, the company has started on several large-scale developments in Canada and the U.S. They use surplus renewable electricity at off-peak hours and produce low-carbon fuels for natural gas utilities and large corporations that are seeking to lower their carbon intensities or are in pursuit of carbon neutrality.

What’s next: “We are focused on the development of low-carbon energy infrastructure to produce various forms of renewable natural gas,” says Moffatt. StormFisher was also recently awarded a contract for a new green bin program in Stratford in which the organic waste will be used to create renewable gas at their facility.

Ontario: New E-Waste Stewardship Regulations

The Government of Ontario recently released final electronic stewardship regulations for the province. (The Electrical and Electronic Equipment (EEE) Regulation under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, was filed on September 21, 2020.

As a next step, The Ontario Government is making EEE producers fully responsible for managing their products by transitioning the existing Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program to Ontario Regulation 522/20.

This transition will put in place a new framework that:

  • makes individual EEE producers responsible for the collection and end-of-life management of EEE they supply into Ontario
  • will give EEE producers more control over how they safely manage their EEE and improve environmental outcomes

New requirements for EEE

The EEE regulation requires producers of information technology, telecommunications and audio visual (ITTAV) equipment and lighting to:

  • establish free collection networks for consumers
  • achieve management requirements through reduction, reuse and/or recycling activities
  • provide promotion and education materials until the end of 2022 for ITTAV and the end of 2024 for lighting to increase consumer awareness
  • register, report, keep records, and undertake audits related to management activities

Producers of ITTAV equipment are required to register by November 30, 2020 and their collection and management obligations will begin on January 1, 2021. For lighting, producers are required to register by November 30, 2022 and begin their collection and management obligations on January 1, 2023.

Similar to the batteries regulation, the EEE regulation makes individual producers legally responsible for meeting the requirements. However, to facilitate an efficient delivery model and allow for economies of scale, producers would have the flexibility to meet their obligations individually, or collaboratively with other producers, by retaining service providers.

Most service providers (e.g. producer responsibility organizations, haulers, processors and specified refurbishers) will be required to register, report and keep records. Collectors are only required to keep records.

CCME Contract Opportunity for Waste Consultants

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is now accepting proposals for the following contract opportunity: Project 651-2021 – Guidance on Recyclability, Labelling and Terms. Proposals will be accepted until October 30, 2020, 12:00 noon CDT.

Ministers approved the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic in 2019 (phase 1 action plan) and 2020 (phase 2 action plan). Together the two phases contain concrete actions to implement the Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste that ministers approved in principle in 2018. Two of these actions inform the Statement of Work of this request for proposals.

To address these two actions, CCME’s Waste Reduction and Recovery Committee (WRRC) Recyclability and Labelling Project Team seeks to develop guidance and reference materials to:

  • support sustainable designed plastic products and alternatives
  • improve understanding of product labels and terms that inform design, purchasing and end-of- life management of plastic products and
  • support actions by FPT jurisdictions, municipalities, industry (e.g., brand owners, producers, retailers, etc.), institutions, waste managers and the public to improve the consumption, recyclability and end of life management of plastic products in

The CCME is seeking a contractor that will do the following:

  • build on and refine a previously drafted reference compendium of existing guidelines for recyclability and
  • develop guidance on the use of labels and terms such as recyclable, compostable and biodegradable to facilitate common understanding and better inform purchasing, recycling or disposing of plastic products, including compostable plastic,

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is the primary minister-led intergovernmental forum for collective action on environmental issues of national and international concern. The 14 member governments work as partners in developing consistent environmental standards and practices.

For me information, visit the CCME website.

Scientists develop enzyme capable of breaking down plastic waste in record time

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Researchers from the University of Portsmouth recently published their work on an re-engineered, plastic-eating enzyme capable of digesting plastic six times faster than previous attempts.  The work, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, describes how they created an enzyme cocktail from waste-dwelling bacterium that derive their energy from digesting plastic bottles.

Previous Discovery

The cocktail consists of two separate enzymes from bacteria found in trash.  The first enzyme, PETase had already been discovered.  PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change.

PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days.

The initial discovery set up the prospect of a revolution in plastic recycling, creating a potential low-energy solution to tackle plastic waste. The team engineered the natural PETase enzyme in the laboratory to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down PET.

Latest Discovery

Now, the same trans-Atlantic team have combined PETase and its ‘partner’, a second enzyme called MHETase, to generate much bigger improvements: simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a ‘super-enzyme’, increased this activity by a further three times.

The team was co-led by the scientists who engineered PETase, Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US.

PETase and the new combined MHETase-PETase both work by digesting PET plastic, returning it to its original building blocks. This allows for plastics to be made and reused endlessly, reducing our reliance on fossil resources such as oil and gas.

 

Zero Waste High-Rise Project Starts in Toronto

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The Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) has been working with high-rise buildings to reduce waste, increase recycling, and increase composting. Buildings have cut their waste, created stronger communities, improved their buildings, and saved money.

TEA has studied how leading buildings achieved their results and helped other buildings learn from their success. Now, TEA want to share what we’ve learned with high-rise residents and staff, to help more Toronto high-rises become zero-waste buildings.

The Zero Waste High-Rise Project was launched and consists of a new step-by-step online program that will allow residents or staff to start the process of reducing waste in their building.

Participants can move through the pathway at their own pace: 

  • Complete forms to assess how well your building is doing, identify opportunities to take action.
  • Access resources and tips from TEA on actions you can take.
  • Participate in virtual events and meetings to learn from other high-rise leaders across the city.

There are 4 stages in the Zero Waste High Rise Project pathway:

  1. Stage 1 – Introduction
  2. Stage 2 – Finding Opportunities
  3. Stage 3 – Planning and Taking Action
  4. Stage 4 – Measuring & Celebrating Change

Each stage is paired with forms and activities, success stories, resources and virtual peer-learning events to help you succeed at each stage in the process.

Who can get involved? 

Anyone who lives or works in a high-rise building and wants to learn more is welcome to sign up! You’ll receive resources and invitations to online events.

In September, up to 10 condos and co-op buildings were selected to receive enhanced support, including facilitated meetings and coaching from TEA staff and our research partners.

What is the cost?

This project is no cost for users and is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario. The project also receives research support from researchers at the University of Toronto and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Here are 2 ways to get started: 

1. Sign up for the online program with your name and email address. Sign up here

2. Register for an upcoming information session. Find a list of upcoming sessions here

This project is funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario, and receives research support from the University of Toronto, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

 

How Neighbourhood Food Environments and a Pay-as-You-Throw (PAYT) Waste Program Impact Household Food Waste Disposal

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Researchers from three Canadian universities recently published the results of a study on how pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste programs impact household food waste disposal.  The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding of current household food waste disposal in order to develop and implement more effective interventions to reduce the wasting of food.

The collaborative study from researchers working at Western University (London, Ontario), Simon Fraser University (British Columbia) and the University of Toronto conducted a four season waste characterization study of 200 single-family households across eight neighbourhoods in Toronto.

The City of Toronto provides residents with a pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste program that includes a choice of four garbage cart sizes ranging from small,  medium, large, and extra large.  Annual user fees range from $18 (small cart) to $411 (extra large cart).  Each household also gets a green cart for organic waste and a blue cart for recycling at no annual cost.

The results of the research show that, on average, each household disposed 4.22 kg/week of total food waste, 69.90% of which was disposed in the green cart, and disposal increased significantly (p = 0.03) by garbage cart size to L but not XL garbage carts. Of this total, 61.78% consisted of avoidable food waste, annually valued at $630.00–$847.00 CAD/household.

Toronto’s PAYT waste program has been effective at diverting food waste into the green cart but not at reducing its generation. Higher median incomes were positively correlated, while higher neighbourhood dwelling and population density were negatively correlated, with total and avoidable food waste disposal. Regression analyses explained 40–67% of the variance in total avoidable food waste disposal.

Higher supermarket density and distance to healthier food outlets were associated with more, while dwelling density was related to less, total and avoidable food waste disposal.

Distance to fast food restaurants and less healthy food outlet density were both negatively associated with avoidable food waste disposal in the garbage and green cart, respectively. Avoidable food waste reduction interventions could include increasing garbage cart fees, weight-based PAYT, or messaging to households on the monetary value of avoidable food waste, and working with food retailers to improve how households shop for their food.

The researchers conclude that the data from the stud can be used to help formulate avoidable food waste reduction interventions. In terms of the PAYT waste program, this could be accomplished by re-visiting and potentially increasing garbage cart fees. Alternately, PAYT could be switched to a weight-based approach which has been shown to be more effective at source reduction of waste.

Program Launched to Recycle more plastic from Farms in Canada

Cleanfarms, non-profit environmental stewardship organization, with support from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, recently announced a three-year 1.3 million project aimed at recovering and recycling more plastic from Canadian farms.
The innovative multi-year initiative will ramp up this fall.  It will provide more Canadian farmers with opportunities to manage plastic waste in environmentally responsible ways.
The project, funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), has been developed and is being executed by Cleanfarms, the national, non-profit industry stewardship organization that has programs in place across Canada to recover and manage non-organic farm waste, most of it plastic, for recycling or environmentally responsible disposal.
Entitled ‘Building a Zero-Plastic Waste Strategy for Agriculture’, the project has three broad-based objectives:
  • to build consensus on the appropriate management of non-organic agricultural waste;
  • to survey farmers to establish current patterns of disposal before and after pilots and education programs; and
  • to demonstrate best practices in ag waste management through pilot programs conducted throughout Canada.

Canadian agriculture currently uses about 40,000 tonnes of plastics annually in the process of growing crops and raising livestock, most of it in plastic containers, grain bags, twine and bale/silage film. Though plastic is essential throughout the farming industry, managing the end of lifecycle of plastics is a big challenge that requires forward-thinking solutions.

Cleanfarms already operates five permanent programs across Canada, the best known of which collects small plastic containers that are 23 litres and under for recycling. In 2019, farmers returned 5.5 million containers bringing the total number returned since the program began 30 years ago to 131.5 million. The containers are recycled into new agricultural products such as tile drainage pipes.

The CASPP/Cleanfarms project links with a recent initiative undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through Environment and Climate Change Canada to quantify the types and volumes of on-farm plastic wastes and identify recycling facilities for agricultural plastics across Canada.

Inspiring Advice at the Women in Waste Webinar

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The Ontario Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA Ontario) and the City of Toronto recently hosted a webinar entitled Women in Waste.  The purpose of the webinar was to showcase inspiring women in the Ontario waste industry.

Featured speakers for the event included the Betsy Varghese (Waste Management Technical Group Strategist at Dillon Consulting), Charlotte Ueta (Project Director, Business Transformation EPR, City of Toronto), Daina Conley (Manager, Community Recycling Centre Operations, Region of Peel) and Sherry Brotherston (Operations Team Lead, Halton Region).  The moderator for the webinar was Eileen Chen (Household Hazardous Waste Operator, Region of Peel).

During the webinar, each featured speaker shared their experiences in various sub-sectors of waste management and discussed the challenges they faced in male dominated work places. The women shared their daily life routines and their motivations.  The discussed who their mentors were and how they were able to overcome the challenges they faced.

One motivation shared by the majority of the panelists was the excitement of working in an industry that is constantly changing.  They shared their passions on working in an industry where their contributions help improve the environment.  They also described the great feeling they get when they are working on a project that results in environmental improvements.

Each panelist agreed that having a trusting and supportive mentor helped them grow their passion in the industry.  One panelist talked of a mentor that helped put wings to her dreams and provided her with opportunities to expand her abilities.  Another panelist added that her mentor’s communication style and guidance on different approaches to difficult situations was magical and fueled her passion.  To this day panelists still network with their mentors in the industry.

Another key point raised in the webinar was balance between work and personal life.  Panelists admitted that family commitments made for challenging times are work and that they had to say no work opportunities on occasion.  One panelist described the initial difficulty of working late-night shifts after coming back from maternity leave but soon adapted to it.

Panelists acknowledged that it important as professionals to recognize that no person can do it all and that it is important to acknowledge one’s own feelings and to be kind to yourself and appreciate your best efforts.

For each panelist in the webinar, overcoming the obstacles of work in the waste industry wasn’t easy.  Each relied on the help and advice of their network and mentors.  It helped that they have a passion of the industry and are confident in what they can contribute to the sector.  Getting recognized for a doing a great job certainly helps build confidence and motivation for further success.

Panelists acknowledged that the waste industry profession is not seen by the general public as glamorous work.  It can be messy and require hands-on attention.  However, it is also an industry that needs professionals to work on policies and procedures, budget and plan, and to manage and lead.  The profession needs scientist, engineers, researchers, and planners.  In all facets of the waste industry, women can be found that have made great contributions.

The mission of Women in Waste is to promote the synergic involvement of all genders in the sector and appreciation of their work.

Virtual Ontario Environment and Cleantech Business + Policy Forum

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When businesses and entrepreneurs face uncertainty, we know what to do.  Gather more information.  Build our networks.  Develop new markets.  And never stop looking for intelligence we can use.

That’s why a growing number of Ontario environmental and cleantech companies and organizations from across Ontario’s environment and cleantech sector will be attending the first virtual Environment and Cleantech Business + Policy Forum, organized by the Ontario Environment Industry Association (ONEIA).  The eighth edition of this event will feature speakers and panels on investment trends and key markets, an annual Q&A session with Ontario Deputy Ministers and our Skip Willis Award presentation. Plus networking opportunities with more than 150 attendees!

The popular Policy Roundtables will be hosted in the week leading up to the Business + Policy Forum from September 14-18. Hear the latest on sector-specific topics around water, excess soils, climate resiliency, brownfield remediation, waste and organics.

Here are four (4) key reasons to attend this event:

  • Learn where key markets and potential investment are going. The speakers and panels will feature leading investment, finance and market experts who will discuss where key areas of environment and cleantech will be going in coming years.  What will grow?   What will face challenges?  Where should businesses look to expand?
  • Hear “what’s next!” Our popular “QuickPitch” competition will see emerging entrepreneurs from a range of new businesses share their pitches with the audience.  This always entertaining, rapid-fire format will share new business models from new companies across the environment and cleantech space.  Your next partner or supplier (or competitor) could be on the stage!
  • Gain insight into the priorities of key ministries. Our “Chat with the Deputies” is a popular feature of the Forum.  This moderated discussion with Deputy Ministers from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Job Creation will see them share their strategic insights into their priorities and take questions from the audience.
  • Expand your networks. The Business and Policy Forum features a “who’s who” of companies from across the environmental business sector, as well as senior investment, government and policy people.  Meet new contacts through our online networking sessions or on your own time through private messaging and hold video meetings directly in the virtual platform.

Private Company Developing new Organics Processing Facility in Toronto

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Coronation Organics Processing, Inc. is in the processing of developing a state-of-the-art, organics recycling and bioenergy facility to be located in Toronto.  When constructed, the facility will have  state-of-the-art de-packaging equipment capable of processing over 30 tonnes per hour of mixed packaged organics for recycling.

From food manufacturing, greenhouse and packing shed organics, grocery store and restaurant food green-box collection, the facility will be able to divert organic material from landfill and recycle it into renewable energy and organic fertilizer is an environmentally sound solution for the treatment of organic waste streams.

Facility Design

As proposed by the company, the Design and Operation (D&O) Report details the design and operation of the proposed Coronation Organics Processing Centre and Anaerobic Digester.
The facility consists of two parts, an Organics Processing Centre (OPC) and Anaerobic Digester System. The facility is designed to work together to process and transfer organic residues for the generation of renewable natural gas and organic fertilizer (digestate). The OPC is designed to be able to provide clean organics for the anaerobic digester system or for export from site. The anaerobic digester system uses the clean organics to generate renewable natural gas for injection into the existing natural gas grid and digestate for export from site for use as an organic fertilizer.

Facility Description

The Facility is currently permitted via ECA Number 4568-AJTR84 is held by Optimum Environmental Corp.  The existing permit includes construction and demolition (C&D) and organics processing on the same permit but as the operation of these two processes is different and that they operate independently of
one another, it is requested that the Permit be split into two separate ECA Permits.
The only shared equipment between the two facilities will be fencing and gates, the weigh-scales that are used to weigh trucks as they enter and exit the property and the roads on the site. All other activities are separate.
The Organics Processing Centre (OPC) is designed to process up to 1240 metric tons per day of organics. Of this material, the anaerobic digester system can process up to 620 metric tons/day.  Any organic material that is processed through the OPC that is not used as feedstock to the anaerobic digester will be exported from the site to other operating anaerobic digester facilities or other appropriately permitted facilities.
The anaerobic digester system will use processed organic residuals from IC&I and SSO material to produce renewable natural gas (RNG) for injection into the natural gas grid and digestate for use on agricultural land.