Recycling Operations Safety Precautions: COVID-19

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The Canadian Association of Recycling Industries (CARI) recently prepared a guidance document entitled COVID-19 General Safety Checklist for Recycling Operations. The guidance document was prepared to assist CARI members in ensuring they have taken all possible safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Besides the guidance document, CARI also prepared a summary of companies permitted to operate in Ontario and Quebec under the current government restrictions as can be found below.

Who can currently operate in Ontario?

ESSENTIAL SERVICES CATEGORIZATION – ONTARIO

Most Ontario recycling operations are captured under one or more of these essential services categories:

SUPPLY CHAINS: Businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services with the support, supplies, systems or services, including processing, packaging, distribution, delivery and maintenance necessary to operate

MANUFACTURING AND PRODUCTION

  • Businesses that extract, manufacture, process and distribute goods, products, equipment and materials, including businesses that manufacture inputs to other manufacturers
  • Businesses, facilities and services that support and facilitate the two-way movement of essential goods within integrated North America and Global supply chains

AGRICULTURE AND FOOD PRODUCTION: Businesses (including any-for-profit, non-profit or other entity) that help to ensure safe and effective waste management including deadstock, rendering, nutrient management, bio hazardous materials, green waste, packaging recycling

UTILITIES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES: Utilities and businesses that support the provision of utilities and community services, including by providing products, materials and services needed for the delivery of utilities and community services including waste collection 

Who can currently operate in Quebec?

ESSENTIAL SERVICES CATEGORIZATION – QUEBEC

Essential service definition: “All businesses that produce inputs or raw materials necessary for priority services and activities must maintain their activities accordingly, bearing in mind the directives from public health authorities. Businesses that provide non-essential services, excluding stores, can maintain minimal operations to ensure the resumption of their activities, bearing in mind the directives issued by public health authorities.”

Recycling operations that fall under these categories may maintain basic operations onsite:

1. GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND OTHER PRIORITY ACTIVITIES / SERVICES GOUVERNEMENTAUX ET AUTRES ACTIVITES PRIORITAIRES: Garbage collection and residual materials management / Collecte des déchets et gestion des matières résiduelles

2. PRIORITY MANUFACTURING ACTIVITIES / ACTIVITES MANUFACTURIERES PRIORITAIRES: The production of inputs necessary for priority sectors / Production des intrants nécessaires aux secteurs prioritaires

Thunder Bay expanding plastics recycling program

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As reported by the CBC, Thunder Bay City Council recently renewed the contract for waste collection with GFL Environmental which includes an expansion of its curbside plastics recycling program to include all #1 (PETE) and #2 plastics (HDPE), including clamshell containers.

The contract with GFL is for seven years at a cost of $3 million per year.

Jason Sherband, the city’s manager of solid waste, told council there is a demand for more items to be included in the municipal recycling program. The expected cost of adding in all #1 and #2 plastics is about $60,000 per year.

That total will be offset by a new revenue sharing component, where the city and GFL will split any revenue 50/50 from the recycled materials. However, the deal allows for the city to also contribute to any losses in revenue.

The Council decided against expanding the plastics recycling program to include plastics #3 through #7 as the collection and processing costs of $180,000 per year would not likely be off-set by the revenue generated through their sale.

Council agreed to have City staff study the issue including plastics #3 through #7 and report back to Council before the 2021 budget.  With the Province of Ontario committed to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), the costing of blue box programs is likely to shift from municipalities to producers.

The changes to the recycling program in the city are still for households and multi-residential properties only. Thunder Bay does not have a municipal recycling program for businesses.

COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie and Peter Hargreave, Policy Integrity Inc.

COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

In light of all the actions being taken by all levels of government to address the spread of the coronavirus, it is worth considering its impact on the waste management sector in Canada.  For most, how waste is collected and where it is taken, is not a daily consideration.  And yet, it is one of the most important public health and safety considerations.

Canadian Waste Industry Vulnerable to US Shutdown

In Ontario for instance, roughly one-third of the Province’s waste disposal needs are met by landfills in the United States.  That equates to 3.2 million tonnes of waste a year or roughly 9,000 tonnes per day. While other Canadian provinces do not have the same reliance on out-of-country disposal, many are reliant on a degree of waste materials being shipped across the border.

The free movement of these materials across the US border is an important element of the current Canadian waste management system.  In the last two decades, we have dealt with a few potential disruptions to this flow of materials.

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 provided a first indication of the potential vulnerability when US border access was constrained.  The immediate closure and proceeding long lines at the border lasted for several days afterward. The Ontario Ministry of Environment, for instance, had to facilitate emergency measures to ensure waste could be managed in the interim period.
  • After a number of waste truck rollovers in Michigan in the early 2000s, local Senators threatened legislative action to restrict waste crossing the border. This led to an agreement between the state of Michigan and Ontario municipalities in 2006, to end the export of municipal waste (specifically from the GTA) to Michigan by 2010. The province helped facilitate the agreement, and as a result, the state of Michigan dropped all legislative initiatives to stop waste imports. The agreement did not include non-residential waste. By 2010, Ontario municipalities had stopped sending residential waste to Michigan. For a time, overall waste shipments to the U.S. declined, but since 2010, non-residential waste export to the U.S. has steadily increased.
  • Concerns were also raised again as part of the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018 that there could be potential for restrictions on the movement of goods.

Any impact on the movement of waste as a result of a closure to the border, would necessitate the management of this roughly 9,000 tonnes of additional waste domestically.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures?

As in 2001, the inability to transfer waste to the United States would likely necessitate potential changes to environmental permits (such as Environmental Compliance Approvals in Ontario) or governmental emergency declarations / measures to allow for waste receiving sites to increase their annual daily maximum limits. Provincial regulators have been prepared in the past in granting the necessary permissions, and are likely doing similar work  now to ensure the waste industry is not at risk of willful non-compliance.

It may also be the case that some of these waste volumes don’t easily find an alternate receiving site, putting the collectors and/or haulers in the difficult position of potentially operating an unlicensed waste storage facility.  Provincial governments will need to think through these situations including requiring certain sites to accept materials.  In short, there are no simple solutions, but proper planning across the country can at least reduce risks.

Hazardous Recyclables and Hazardous Waste Movement Compliance

In the case of hazardous materials for which no clear alternate home is available in Canada, the situation is even more precarious.   Internationally, no less than 99% of all (lawful) hazardous recyclables (and hazardous waste) exported from, or imported to, Canada are with the United States.  International wastes are still regulated in Canada under the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations, which has yet to be replaced by the long-proposed and more business-friendly Cross-border Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations.  

The Export and Import law currently requires certifications from the holder that any recyclable or waste which is not successfully transferred across the border will be lawfully disposed of in Canada consistent with the approved recycling or waste activity under which the materials were to be transited to the United States.  

A closed border will, in at least some circumstances, put that certification to the test as not all materials exported to the United States have an alternate recycling or disposal facility in Canada.  This is increasingly so with the growth of more specialized and regionally-servicing facilities in US states which capture both Canadian and American materials.  

Some Canadian Recyclers Dependent Upon US Material 

The reverse also creates challenges for the waste industry as some Canadian recyclers are economically dependent on US material.   The disruption of the needed supply of US-originating materials into specialized recycling and disposal facilities in Canada can quickly create a situation where insufficient material volumes makes the facilities no longer viable, leaving the Canadian materials also without a home.

In other words, the growth of integration, particularly in respect of hazardous recyclables and discrete hazardous wastes makes a border shutdown acutely challenging for the Canadian recycling and waste industry.

Contingency Planning to be Developed?

It is likely an overreaction to anticipate that US-Canada integration in resource recovery and waste disposal will come to an end with the current closure of the border.   The economies of scale and lower cost disposal capacity in the United States will presumably reinvigorate this international trade once the worst of COVID-19 has passed.

There may, however, be a growth in contingency planning in respect of Canadian waste and recycling capacity, recognizing a myriad of events may give rise to future US border closures and the Canadian waste industry needs to be prepared.


About the Authors

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm’s Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. 

Peter Hargreave, President of Policy Integrity Inc., has over 15 years’ experience in providing strategic advice in the development, implementation and oversight of public policy. Over his professional career, he has developed a strong network of relationships with regulators, public and private organizations, and other key stakeholders involved in environmental issues across Canada, the United States and abroad. 

Business Opportunity: Solid Waste Management Plan for Wood Buffalo, Alberta

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The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is seeking proposals from reputable and experienced firms to conduct assessment of the current municipal Solid Waste Management practices to reduce and eliminate the adverse impacts of solid waste materials on resident’s health, the environment and to support economic development and superior quality of life.

Bid Opportunity notices and awards and a free preview of the bid documents is available on the Bids and Tenders website free of charge without registration. There is no cost to obtain an unsecured version of the document and /or to participate in this solicitation

Submissions will be received online only.  The deadline for bid submissions is April 8th, 2020.

Canada asks for extension on legislation to ban plastic waste exports

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The Government of Canada recently made a formal notification to the United Nations (UN) that its laws will not be in compliance with the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste and their Disposal (“Basel Convention”).

The definition of “hazardous waste” in the Basel Convention was extended to include contaminated plastic waste. Canada has yet to pass legislation banning the export of this waste stream.

“Before Canada can formally accept the amendments, it needs to complete an internal acceptance procedure. This procedure, led by Global Affairs Canada, is underway,” Gabrielle Lamontagne of Environment Canada told CBC News, adding that Canada hopes to finish that work before the end of the year.

UN documents say the new rules “come into force” on March 24 of this year. Canada is requesting a special delay from the UN in order to give it more time to enact the required legislation. The notice sent to the UN says that Canada “fully supports and intends to comply with the amendments,” but “the said process may not be finalized prior to the entry into force of the above-noted amendments.”

During the Basel Conference of the Parties from 29 April to 10 May 2019, Governments amended the Basel Convention to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework which will make global trade in plastic waste more transparent and better regulated, whilst also ensuring that its management is safer for human health and the environment. At the same time, a new Partnership on Plastic Waste was established to mobilize business, government, academic and civil society resources, interests and expertise to assist in implementing the new measures, to provide a set of practical supports – including tools, best practices, technical and financial assistance.

North Bay Banning Textiles from Landfill

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The City of North Bay, a community approximately 50,000 about 350 km north to Toronto, recently banned the collection and disposal of textiles at the City-owned landfill.

The ban is a result of a vote of City Council to discontinue the collection and disposal of textiles at the city landfill. A majority of council adopted a recommendation from the city’s infrastructure and operations committee to ban textiles from the Merrick Landfill and conduct an education campaign.

The textile ban is being taken, in part, to extend the life of the existing Merrick Landfill. Operations at the landfill began in 1995 and the projected lifespan is 19 years.

In 2019, Councillor Mac Bain tried to convince fellow councillors to implement the landfill ban on textiles. He argued that used textiles should go to local charities like the Salvation Army and Rebuilt Resources who can then resell them. Torn and unsold clothing can be broken up and used as rags according to Bain.

The textile ban takes effect on April 22nd. City enforcement of the ban will not include waste collectors opening and inspecting garbage bags. The city also will not levy fines against individuals or businesses, and used textiles which cannot be donated, such as soiled or greasy rags, can still be thrown away.

It is estimated the the landfill ban of textiles could potentially divert an estimated 1,890 metric tons, of unwanted textiles each year in North Bay. Currently, approximately 85 of unwanted textiles are landfilled.

Quebec Government rescues Private Company on the cusp of closing four MRFs

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In late January, a private company the runs four recycling centres across the Province of Quebec had threatened to shut down its operations. The company, Rebuts Solides Canadiens (RSC), which is owned by French company Tiru, issued a letter to the City of Montreal stating that it has been steadily losing revenue since October 2019 due to the global paper-recycling crisis and that it could not continue operations much longer.

In the letter to the City of Montreal, RSC stated that it needed more money or will be forced to close. In response, the City of Montreal stated that it had bailed out the company before but can’t afford to pay again.

“The sale of paper constituted a major part of Groupe RSC’s revenue. This drastic shift in the world market of recycled paper was already a considerable expense for Groupe RSC, despite the efforts from some municipalities and public aid,” RSC’s letter read. 

In response, Quebec’s Environment Minister, Benoit Charette stated he wants to prevent recyclable material from going to landfill “at all costs.” The Government of Quebec backed up his words by announcing that it was loaning RSC $7 million to keep its operations open.

In return for the loan, the Quebec government obtained guarantees worth $8 million on the company’s assets. The Quebec Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change) assumes a $5 million share of the loan while Recyc-Québec will assume a $2 million loan.

Cost-Revenue Drivers for MRFs

One driver for the recycling woes of Groupe RSC is the ban China instituted in 2018 on several types of recyclables. The Chinese ban caused a shift in the world market for recycled and recuperated goods, causing a waste crisis in dozens of cities around North America. 

A second driver for the current recycling crisis in Montreal is the city’s sing-stream recycling process. With single-stream recycling, all materials are collected together and all the sorting happens at the Material Recycling Facility (MRF). Although single-stream is easier on residents and results in higher participation rates, it is more costly to run and leads to higher contamination rates at the MRF.

New B.C. Program aims to keep organic waste from landfill

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The Government of British Columbia recently announced that it is partnering with the federal and local governments on the new Organics Infrastructure Program. The $30-million program will help communities expand their infrastructure, diverting organic waste away from landfills. It will also help the Province meet its CleanBC commitment to help communities achieve 95% organic waste diversion for agricultural, industrial and municipal waste.

Organic waste currently represents 40% of material sent to municipal landfills in B.C. and generates 7.5% of the province’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In total, the projects are expected to reduce nearly 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next decade. This is like removingmore than 100,000 cars from the roads for a year.

The Organics Infrastructure Program combines $10 million in federal funding from the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, $10 million from the Province, and $10 million in matching funds from local government applicants and their partners. Among the projects are two from the Central Kootenay Regional District — Central landfill composting facility and the Creston landfill composting facility — that, together, provide the region with food-waste processing capacity for the first time. Another recipient is the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality’s worm composting facility. It will divert organic waste from Fort Nelson’s landfill and create high-quality soil.

“This program will help communities, the Province and Canada meet our shared climate action goals,” said George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “It will also help build B.C.’s clean economy by creating green jobs and setting the stage for the economic opportunities that come from the reuse of organic materials.” 

“Investing in better infrastructure for waste management will divert organic waste from municipal landfills and turn it into clean and useful compost,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Initiatives such as this one are key to fighting climate change and helping us reach net-zero emissions by 2050. I congratulate the Province of British Columbia for its leadership in this effort.”

Twelve projects have finalized agreements to date. Additional projects are expected to come on board in the coming months. The initial projects are expected to break ground starting in the spring.

Organics Program Receipiants

The 12 projects in 10 B.C. that are to receive funding are listed below. Additional projects are expected to be approved in the coming months. The dollar values below represent the provincial funding portion only. The money will be distributed over three fiscal years to support project planning, design and construction.

Central Coast

  • Central Coast organics compost diversion initiative (Phase 1): $49,092
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 950
  • This project, led by the Central Coast Regional District, is the first phase of a composting facility that will allow Bella Coola to divert organic waste from its landfill for the first time and enhance services to the Nuxalk Nation.

Central Kootenay

  • Central landfill composting facility: $776,053
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 68,873
  • Creston landfill composting facility: $ 485,745
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 15,890
  • Two complementary projects, led by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, will provide processing capacity for food waste for the first time in the regional district. These projects represent strong partnerships within and outside the regional district as one of the facilities will also service part of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

Columbia Shuswap

  • Revelstoke composting facility: $100,000
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 61,465
  • This project, led by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, will allow residents and businesses from the City of Revelstoke and Electoral Area B to divert food waste from the landfill for the first time. Over half the waste entering the Revelstoke landfill is organic. This project will create a usable compost product, prolong the existing landfill life and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Comox Valley

  • Regional organic composting facility additional capacity: $484,815
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 37,489
  • This project, led by theComox Valley Regional District, means the communities of Campbell River, Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland will be able to compost an extra 1,625 tonnes of food waste per year, supporting the regional district’s waste diversion target of 70% by 2022.

East Kootenay

  • There are three projects being funded in the Regional District of East Kootenay that work together to support a regional system. These projects are in the Columbia Valley, Elk Valley and central subregions, providing coverage throughout the region.
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: Columbia Valley site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 25,442
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: central sub-region site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 13,539
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: Elk Valley site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 42,563

Kootenay Boundary

  • Regional District of Kootenay Boundary organics diversion expansion project: $1,182,006
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 2,873
  • This project will expand the regional district’s organics processing capacity to include food-waste materials from the industrial, commercial and institutional sector throughout the Boundary region and initiate food-waste collection for residents of Greenwood. This expanded facility will primarily process food waste, wood, yard and garden waste from the City of Grand Forks.

Northern Rockies

  • Northern Rockies vermicomposting(worm) facility: $222,546
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 2,273
  • This project will divert organic waste from Fort Nelson’s landfill through a vermicomposting facility; red wiggler worms work with fungi, bacteria and other invertebrates to transform organic matter into “castings,” which can be used in municipal landscaping or residential gardening.

Okanagan-Similkameen

  • Oliver landfill residential food waste compost facility: $400,000
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 4,014
  • This project, led by the regional district, provides the Oliver and Osoyoos landfill service areas with a new composting facility that will process residential food waste, agricultural waste and yard waste. This project is part of a larger regional strategy to manage organic wastes in the regional district. 

Summerland

  • Summerland organics processing facility: $790,500
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 24,548
  • The District of Summerland will benefit from the relocated organics processing site as the move will increase capacity, upgrade operational and environmental technology and create high-quality Class A compost streams. The project will divert additional organic waste, preventing it from being landfilled and, therefore, reduce greenhouse gases, while prolonging the existing landfill life.

Ontario Waste Processing Firm fined increased to $170,000 following appeal

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An Ontario Court recently granted the Crown’s appeal of the sentence that had been imposed in 2018 after a guilty plea by Quantex Technologies Inc., and increased the fine from $140,000 to $170,000, plus victim fine surcharge.

Quantex Technologies Inc., based in Kitchener, plead guilty and was convicted in Ontario Court in 2018 for violations related to permitting waste to pass from its control without accurately completing a manifest, for transferring waste subject to land disposal restrictions without giving notice to the receiver, and for permitting the emission of an air contaminant to an extent that it may cause personal discomfort.

Quantex Technologies Inc. is a firm that specializes in the field of hazardous waste management, including re-refining of fuels and International slop oil recovery.

In its 2018 ruling, the Ontario Court convicted Quantex of three violations and fined the a total of $140,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $35,000 with 2 years to pay.  The court also issued a probation order requiring the company to retain an independent auditor to conduct an embedded audit of some of the company’s waste management practices.

In December 2018, when the Court-oredered embedded audit was to begin, Quantex advised the Crown that it had sold the facility.  It subsequently became apparent that the company had sold the facility prior to being sentenced in June 2018 and that Quantex had provided inaccurate information to the sentencing court.  Therefore, the earlier sentencing had been conducted on the basis of inaccurate information.  

As a result, the Crown appealed the sentence.  The appeal was resolved on consent when the appeal court varied the sentence to increase the fine from $140,000 to $170,000. The $30,000 fine increase reflected the anticipated cost of the embedded audit. The victim fine surcharge also increased from $35,000 to $42,500. The sentencing court also vacated the Order requirement that the company conduct the embedded audit.

At the time of the violations, Quantex Technologies Inc. operated a hazardous and liquid industrial waste transferring/processing site in Kitchener under ministry approval.

Summary of the Violations

The first violation relates to incidents that occurred between November 2015 and January 2016. During that time, Quantex accepted hazardous wastes which were bulked together and shipped to another waste processing/transfer facility. An Ontario Environment Ministry inspection indicated that the waste manifest did not accurately reflect the waste classifications and that Quantex had not notified the receiver that some of the waste was  subject to land disposal restrictions. As a consequence, the receiving facility was not aware that some of the waste had classifications that were not approved under the company’s ministry approval.

The second violation relates to an incident in August 2016. At the time, Quantex employees were transferring liquid industrial and/or hazardous wastes from storage totes into a tanker trailer on-site, and the truck’s vacuum pump and exhaust was being discharged into the air. During the transfer period, neighbours experienced burning and irritated eyes, a chlorine-like odour and difficulty breathing. The occurrence was reported to Quantex, which ceased the operation immediately.

Past Violations

In 2016, Quantex was fined $140,000 plus a $35,000 victim surcharge for an incident that occurred in 2012 in which odour was released during the transfer of septic waste from one tanker to another. The odours resulted in neighbours complaining that it gave them headaches and made them nauseous.

Pyrowave receives $3.3 million in SDTC funding to commercialize plastics recycling technology

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Pyrowave, based in Montreal, recently received $3.3 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to commericalize its patented Plastic-to-Plastic recycling technology.

The $3.2 million awarded to Pyrowave will be used to create a dedicated Research & Development unit of three PhD engineers allowing the company to continue to innovate towards a commercial-scale system that is able to regenerate post-consumer and postindustrial plastics to their full value.

Pyrowave Technology can yield up to 95% in styrene monomer concentrate, i.e. a yield approximately 3 times higher than the other industry technologies. This performance is made possible through the Pyrowave‑developed patented microwave technology.

Pyrowave Technology

Pyrowave’s patented microwave catalytic depolymerization technology is designed for polystyrene raw materials and can process the full range of expanded polystyrene (EPS) and high impact polystyrene (HIPS). The processing steps are as follows:

  1. The continuous process first prepares plastics into a mixture that removes contaminants such as labels and films as well as other impurities.
  2. The conditionned polystyrene is introduced into the reactor where it is mixed with silicon carbide particles to interact with a high energy microwave field.
  3. Microwaves heat up these particles very quickly, at very high temperatures, to break polymer chains and retrieve monomers (depolymerization).
  4. Post-consumer polystyrene is thus converted into a liquid rich in blocks – the monomers – to be purified and meet the same specifications as the virgin blocks.
  5. These purified and recycled blocks are then taken up by a manufacturer and transformed again into virgin resins, to manufacture new products.

One of the bonuses of the pyrowave technology is that it is GHG negative. Pyrowave’s technology emits three times less Greenhouse Gas Emissions to produce polystyrene from recycled material than from virgin fossil material and consumes 15 times less energy.

About Sustainable Development Technology Canada

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a foundation created by the Government of Canada to advance clean technology innovation in Canada by funding and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises developing and demonstrating clean technology solutions.