Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?

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Industry 4.0 and Circular Economy: Towards a Wasteless Future or a Wasteful Planet?
Written by Antonis Mavropoulos and Anders Waage Nilsen
Publishing September 2020

HOW THE MARRIAGE OF INDUSTRY 4.0 AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY CAN RADICALLY TRANSFORM WASTE MANAGEMENT—AND OUR WORLD

Do we really have to make a choice between a wasteless and nonproductive world or a wasteful and ultimately self-destructive one? Futurist and world-renowned waste management scientist Antonis Mavropoulos and sustainable business developer and digital strategist Anders Waage Nilsen respond with a ringing and optimistic “No!” They explore the Earth-changing potential of a happy (and wasteless) marriage between Industry 4.0 and a Circular Economy that could—with properly reshaped waste management practices—deliver transformative environmental, health, and societal benefits. This book is about the possibility of a brand-new world and the challenges to achieve it.

The fourth industrial revolution has given us innovations including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D-printing, and biotech. By using these technologies to advance the Circular Economy—where industry produces more durable materials and runs on its own byproducts—the waste management industry will become a central element of a more sustainable world and can ensure its own, but well beyond business as usual, future. Mavropoulos and Nilsen look at how this can be achieved—a wasteless world will require more waste management—and examine obstacles and opportunities such as demographics, urbanization, global warming, and the environmental strain caused by the rise of the global middle class.

  • Explore the new prevention, reduction, and elimination methods transforming waste management
  • Comprehend and capitalize on the business implications for the sector
  • Understand the theory via practical examples and case studies
  • Appreciate the social benefits of the new approach

Waste-management has always been vital for the protection of health and the environment. Now it can become a crucial role model in showing how Industry 4.0 and the Circular Economy can converge to ensure flourishing, sustainable—and much brighter—future.

Source: Wiley Publishers

Terrapure and East Penn Canada recognized for closed-loop battery recycling solutions

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Terrapure Environmental® and East Penn Canada recently announced that they received an Environment + Energy Leader Award for Project of the Year for their closed-loop, circular-economy approach to lead battery recycling. The Environment + Energy Leader Awards is a program recognizing excellence in products and services that provide companies with energy and environmental benefits, and in projects implemented by companies that improve environmental or energy management and increase the bottom line.

East Penn Canada collects spent batteries from its customers and ships them to Terrapure to break the batteries down to their base components for recycling. Terrapure processes and refines the lead to East Penn’s specifications, and it is then returned to East Penn’s battery manufacturing facility in Pennsylvania for use in new batteries.

“This approach is a real win-win,” said Ross Atkinson, Senior Vice President of Battery Recycling at Terrapure. “It provides East Penn a closed-loop recycling process for their batteries, ensuring a beneficial reuse of a valuable commodity, while also helping preserve a finite natural resource. We’re proud to be recognized for our battery-recycling efforts.”

“Not only does Terrapure’s recycling process provide a circular-economy solution for a portion of East Penn’s lead batteries, it also takes 60 percent less energy to produce recycled lead, helping to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Mike Bouchard, President East Penn Canada.

While the overall caliber of entries was exceptionally high this year, judges agreed that East Penn and Terrapure’s closed-loop recycling process demonstrates impressive results. One judge noted: “Building a closed-loop circular-economy system is a significant challenge and expense. Great to see an investment that will impact a broad sector, since lead batteries are used in so many products, both consumer-focused and manufacturing/industrial. The entry provides multiple environmental management results, including preventing waste and promoting reuse, reduced energy consumption for production, and reduced waste to landfill.”

This is the fourth consecutive year Terrapure has been honoured with an Environment + Energy Leader Award. Previously, the company was recognized for its innovative centrifuge technology, its oil-recycling program and its innovative use of biosolids to remediate a mine site with Vale Canada.

“With rapid advancements and a near-constant rate of change in the field, sustainability and energy professionals had to prove to our judges that they were really the best of the best this year,” said Sarah Roberts, Environment + Energy Leader publisher. “With a highly respected – and critical – judging panel and a strict set of judging criteria, entrants faced an extremely high bar to qualify for an award.”

Terrapure receives approximately 10 million batteries annually and produces 125,000 metric tonnes of recycled lead per year, recovering 99 percent of batteries in Canada and diverting them from the landfill.

About East Penn Canada

East Penn Canada specializes in the distribution and safe recovery of lead batteries in Canada. East Penn Canada is headquartered in Ajax, Ontario and operates the largest Canadian distribution and recovery network supported by 17 fully stocked warehouses, a company owned fleet and over 300 employees of battery solution experts.

About Terrapure

Terrapure Environmental is a Canadian provider of essential environmental and industrial services for industrial, commercial and institutional customers, including those in the manufacturing, mining, municipal, oil and gas, pulp and paper, refining and petrochemical, transportation, and utilities sectors. Headquartered in Burlington, Ontario, the company employ approximately 2,000 people and operate an integrated network of over 70 locations across
Canada.

U.S.: Expansion of a New Mapping Tool For Managing Debris

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) recently announced the nationwide expansion of an interactive dataset that maps recyclers and landfills for the planning, response, and recovery of debris. This debris recovery tool has already proven valuable in training exercises and response activity to natural disasters.

“EPA is prepared to help communities more rapidly recover from natural disasters,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “EPA’s debris recovery tool will assist federal, state, local and tribal emergency personnel to quickly identify recycling, composting, and disposal facilities near affected areas that may be able to accept disaster debris.”

The expansion of the recovery tool was supported by the E-Enterprise Initiative that emphasizes collaboration and data sharing among EPA, states, and tribes. The recovery tool advances EPA’s goals of recycling and material recovery following natural disasters, such as hurricanes, and is one of several resources mentioned in EPA’s Planning for Natural Disaster Debris Guidance.

The recovery tool can also assist with debris management planning by identifying potential facilities before a disaster occurs, which can help communities recover faster. Better management of debris may reduce injuries, minimize or prevent the environmental impacts of mismanaged wastes and ultimately support compliance with environmental regulations.

Early adoption of the interactive tool in EPA’s Region 5 office has already led to successful disaster debris management planning for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and tornado response by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on EPA’s debris recovery tool, visit https://www.epa.gov/debris-recovery-map.

For more information on EPA’s Planning for Natural Disaster Debris guide and managing materials and wastes for homeland security incidents, visit: https://www.epa.gov/homeland-security-waste.

For more information on the E-Enterprise Initiative, visit: https://www.epa.gov/e-enterprise.

For more information on EPA’s emergency response program, visit: https://www.epa.gov/emergency-response.

Source: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Australian Government to directly invest $190 million on a Waste & Recycling Plan to Transform the Industry

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The Australian Government recently announced that it will commit $190 million to a new Recycling Modernisation Fund (RMF) that will generate $600 million of recycling investment and drive a billion-dollar transformation of Australia’s waste and recycling capacity.

The government claims that more than 10,000 jobs will be created and over 10 million tonnes of waste diverted from landfill to the making of useful products as Australia turbo charges its recycling capacity.

The RMF will support innovative investment in new infrastructure to sort, process and remanufacture materials such as mixed plastic, paper, tyres and glass, with Commonwealth funding contingent on co-funding from industry, states and territories.

Australia’s waste and recycling transformation is being further strengthened by an additional:

  • $35 million to implement Commonwealth commitments under Australia’s National Waste Policy Action Plan, which sets the direction for waste management and recycling in Australia until 2030.
  • $24.6 million on Commonwealth commitments to improve our national waste data so it can measure recycling outcomes and track progress against our national waste targets.
  • The introduction of new Commonwealth waste legislation to formally enact the Government’s waste export ban and encourage companies to take greater responsibility for the waste they generate, from product design through to recycling, remanufacture or disposal (Product Stewardship).

The moves are part of a national strategy to change the way Australia looks at waste, grow the economy, protect the environment and reach a national resource recovery target of 80% by 2030.

“As we cease shipping our waste overseas, the waste and recycling transformation will reshape our domestic waste industry, driving job creation and putting valuable materials back into the economy,” Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said in a recent news release.

Susan Ley, Australian Minister of the Environment

“Australians need to have faith that the items they place in their kerbside recycling bins will be re-used in roads, carpet, building materials and a range of other essential items.

“At the same time, we need to stop throwing away tonnes of electronic waste and batteries each year and develop new ways to recycle valuable resources.

“As we pursue National Waste Policy Action Plan targets, we need manufacturers and industry to take a genuine stewardship role that helps create a sustainable circular economy.

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to remodel waste management, reduce pressure on our environment and create economic opportunity.”

Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management, Trevor Evans, said that the unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity followed close consultation with industry.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry,” Assistant Minister Evans said.

“Australian companies are turning plastics and household waste into furniture, decking, fencing and clothing, and we are developing new domestic markets for recycled materials by setting national standards for recycled content in roads and making recycled products a focus of procurement for infrastructure, defence estate management and general government purchasing.

“Our targeted investment will grow Australia’s circular economy, create more jobs and build a stronger onshore recycling industry.

“Companies are already moving with The Pact Group announcing a $500 million investment in facilities, research and technology, Coca-Cola Amatil committing to new recycling targets, and Pact, Cleanaway and Asahi Beverages establishing a $30 million recycling facility in Albury.”

Waste export ban to start from January 2021

The unparalleled expansion of Australia’s recycling capacity follows the 2019 National Waste Policy Action Plan, Australia’s government ban on exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, and this year’s first ever National Plastics Summit.

The waste export ban was due to commence on July 1st, 2020. After consulting with industry and as a result of restrictions related to COVID-19 impacting Parliament’s ability to pass legislation in by July 1st, the ban will now commence on January 1st, 2021. The schedule for implementing the export ban on waste plastic, paper and tyres remains unchanged.

 

 

Start-up receives $2.75M from SDTC to commercialize the manufacture of bioplastics from agricultural byproducts

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Sustainable Canada Technology Canada (SDTC) recently announced that it had granted $2.75 million to EcoPackers, a Canadian cleantech company that converts agricultural byproducts into 100 percent plant-based and compostable alternatives to traditional plastic inputs.

EcoPackers Leadership Team

Conceived by CEO Nuha Siddiqui during her time as president of the University of Toronto chapter of the social entrepreneurship club Enactus, Ecopackers is on a mission to reduce the world’s reliance on single-use plastics.

The Toronto-based company, developed with support from the Creative Destruction Lab, got its start manufacturing biodegradable packing peanuts made from agricultural byproducts. It has since expanded into producing eco-resins that can be used by manufacturers in place of plastic.

Unlike many existing bioplastics, Ecopackers’ resin is designed to be compatible with existing manufacturing technologies and processes.

“We were one of the only eco-focused companies out there that wasn’t going against the plastic manufacturers – we were actually trying to work with them to develop products that worked with their technology,” Siddiqui, a Rotman Commerce graduate, told U of T News.

The all-woman leadership team behind Ecopackers – which also includes chief technology officer Chang Dong and chief operating officer Kritika Tyagi – is now working on pilot products with manufacturers around the world.

About SDTC

Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) is a foundation created by the Government of Canada to support Canadian companies with the potential to become world leaders in their efforts to develop and demonstrate new environmental technologies that address climate change, clean air, clean water and clean soil.

 

Free Webinar on True Zero Waste and the Circular Economy

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This webinar is a complimentary event open to the United States Green Building Coalition – Los Angeles (USGBC-LA) community members and the general public.  It is scheduled for May 13th at 11 am Pacific Daylight Time.

Topics of discussion on the TRUE Zero Waste and Circular Economy Overview – Webinar on May 13th (11 am PDT) include:

  • What is Circular Economy?
  • What’s the difference between Circular Economy and a really good recycling program?
  • Introduction to the basic concepts:
    • Waste = Food
    • Build Resilience Through Diversity
    • Energy from Renewable Resources
    • Think in Systems
    • True Zero Waste Certification overview

Without urgent action, global waste will increase by 70 percent on current levels by 2050, according to the World Bank’s new report. The make-take-waste way of doing things is coming to an end and if we do it right, we’ll create massive new economical and social opportunities!

During the webinar there will be a discussion on how businesses can create value by striving for zero waste, seeing products and materials as cycles, the role of creative solutions, and how you can contribute to make the transition to a Circular Economy.

SPEAKERS

 Denise Braun, CEO All About Waste

Denise has over seventeen years of experience in the sustainability field, starting in Brazil and then moving to the United States. She is the founder and principal of All About Waste – a woman and minority-owned sustainability and zero waste consulting firm based in Los Angeles, CA. Denise and her team provide a diverse range of services including solid waste data collection and analysis, circular strategic frameworks, green building certifications, zero waste programs and certification, training/educational workshops, and community outreach. She has worked in various capacities on over 150 LEED-certified projects, many of which have achieved the highest level of certification with no clarifications. Denise is currently working on several zero-waste and wellness projects. She worked on the first TRUE-certified zero waste high-rise commercial building in the world. Denise has been responsible for over 30 million square feet of waste audits and has developed and analyzed technical waste management solutions for a large variety of building types. Denise has presented at numerous lectures, workshops, and conferences, including the annual Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo, Net Zero Conference, the Living Building Collaborative Zero Waste Forum and the GreenBuild Conference & Expo. She currently has several accreditation and expertise such as: LEED AP,  WELL AP, ENV SP, TRUE Advisor, Fitwel Ambassador and sustainable supply chain. She also is sitting as a Board of Director at USGBC-LA.

 Ryan McMullan, CEO Lean Green Way

Over his career Ryan McMullan has led several Sustainability programs including in Toyota’s Corporate Responsibility department and Rice University’s Facilities & Engineering department.  These have included strategically developing and deploying environmental targets across a wide variety of functional groups, reporting on environmental progress, greenhouse gas inventories, and developing programs for zero waste, zero carbon, and zero water.  He now consults with companies like Lockheed-Martin, Walmart and Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) to help them establish leading sustainability strategies. He is an advisor to TRUE Zero Waste Certification at GBCI and the Environmental Leader Conference. He earned his Masters from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara and his Bachelor’s from Rice University.  At home he keeps busy improving the sustainability of his home in Long Beach, California, teaching his 10-year-old son to conserve resources and design games, and writing on his experiences.

German Researchers Discover Plastic-Eating Bacteria

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Researchers in Germany recently published a research paper in Frontiers in Microbiology in which they describe the isolating a strain of bacteria that can degrade plastic.  The specific bacteria Pseudomonas sp. were able to biodegrade polyurethanes.  The plastic, specifically polyurethane, served as the sole source of carbon and energy for the bacteria.

Due to the variety in physical, chemical, thermal and mechanical properties, polyurethanes (PU)have a broad range of applications, Some of the main applications are detailed below:
• Flexible PUF: automobile seating, furniture, carpets.
• Rigid PUF: refrigerator, insulation board.
• Elastomers: footwear, adhesives, medical.
• RIM: automobiles (bumpers, side panels).
• Other: carpets, casting, sealants.

As PUs are used in so many every day applications and industrial uses, they enter the municipal solid waste stream, usually by way of discarded consumer and industrial products. These products frequently are durable goods with a long lifespan such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and automobile parts. By weight, approximately 1.3 million tons of waste PUs are generated each year in the USA alone. The largest market is for PUF (47% flexible and 28% rigid), followed by PU elastomers (8%).  North America represents around 30–35% of the world total consumption, with the remainder in Western Europe (around 40%), the Far East (around 15%) and the rest of the world (around 10–15%).

Polyurethanes, due to there diverse chemical composition, are very difficult to recycle.  Due to their high flammability, they are typically treated with flame retardants that may be carcinogenic.

“The bacteria can use these compounds as a sole source of carbon, nitrogen and energy,” says microbiologist Hermann Heipieper, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Germany. “This finding represents an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle PU products.”

The discovery was made in the soil underneath a waste site containing an abundance of brittle plastics. Having spotted the strain, the scientists ran a genomic analysis and other experiments to work out the bacterium’s capabilities.  It will be some time before there is a commercial-scale bacteria-based solution to plastic waste challenge.

Canadian Research

In Canada, researchers from the University of British Columbia and industry partner Polymer Research Technologies are working together to develop technology that will allow polyurethane foam waste to be chemically recycled into polyols.  If successful, the research will lead to a commercial-scale process that can produce a reusable, recyclable, economical, and eco-friendly raw material alternative to petroleum-based virgin polyol.

 

Timeline extended for Ontario Blue Box Transition Plan

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Stewardship Ontario, recently announced that the Ontario government had granted an extension for the submission of the blue box transition plan to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA).  Stakeholders now have until July 8, 2020 to submit input on how Ontario’s Blue Box recycling program should be transitioned to a full producer responsibility model.

Stewardship Ontario is a not-for-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that are the brand owners, first importers or franchisors of the products and packaging materials managed under recycling programs in the Province of Ontario.

The RPRA is an arms-length Ontario Government organization that was set up to support the transition to a circular economy and a waste-free Ontario.  The RPRA oversees three waste diversion programs- Blue Box, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW), and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)– and their eventual wind up.

Now being developed by Stewardship Ontario, the plan was originally scheduled for submission to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) on June 30, 2020 but the timeline has been revised as follows:

  • Stakeholder feedback on transition plan proposals extended to July 8, 2020
  • Transition plan submitted to RPRA no later than August 31, 2020
  • RPRA approval maintains original deadline of December 31, 2020

Consultation materials supplied by Stewardship Ontario originally scheduled for the week of April 6 have been postponed and are expected to be made available to stakeholders shortly.

Stewardship Ontario will be reaching out to stakeholder group associations to schedule meetings and discuss initial feedback on the materials before the rescheduled consultation webinars.

Recycling and Organics Processing Programs suspended in Greater St. John, NB

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The Fundy Region Service Commission, which is responsible for managing the waste management for the Greater St. John area in New Brunswick, has temporarily suspended the practice of separating waste into garbage, compost and recycling at the landfill, and blue bin depots have been closed until further notice. The suspension of service is to ensure worker health & safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Although the curbside pick-up of blue bin recyclable and green bin organics will continue, all the material will be landfilled.

The Fundy Region Service Commission (the “Commission”) provide solid waste management, planning, building inspection services as well as collaboration of other services to the City of St. John, New Brunswick and surrounding municipalities.  The Fundy Region Solid Waste Commission is responsible for solid waste disposal and diversion in the Greater Saint John area, including Crane Mountain Landfill and the recycling and compost programs.

Chris Hand, Operations Supervisor at the Fundy Region Service Commission told CTV News that the reason for the suspension in the recycling and organics programs was due to worker health and safety.  Hand stated, “A lot of people don’t realize that when the recyclables come in and the compost as well, the organics, we have belts that that has to get across where there’s actually staff that has to intermingle with that waste.”

“The stories that we’re hearing, that COVID-19 can stay up to three days on porous plastics, 24 hours onto cardboard, and even with the strict PPE requirements in place with our staff, we just don’t want to take any of the chances with our staff at this time,” Harned said in the CTV News interview.

The Commission is asking residents to consider storing their compost and/or recycling for proper disposal at a later date. This will support our collective environmental responsibility and help save space at the landfill.  If it is not feasible to store the compost and/or recyclables for pick up at a later date, the Commission is still requesting residents to continue separating organics and recyclables as municipalities are charged lower rates for these streams than garbage by the Commission.  Also, it will help keep the correct routine when the pandemic ends.

 

 

 

Emterra Environmental wins waste collection contract for Oxford County, Ontario

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Recently, municipal officials from Oxford County (a rural municipal county of 111,000 in southwestern Ontario) awarded Emterra Environmental a five-year  contract for curbside garbage and recycling pickup.  The contract also includes two one-year extension options.  The value of the contract is $2.8 million a year, plus and addtional $703,000 for the processing and transfer of materials.  Other vendors that bid on the curbside collection contract were Green for Life Environmental and HGC Management Inc.

The transfer of service providers from HGC Management Inc. to Emterra Environmental is scheduled for May 4th.  Under the contract, the County will stay on its current five-day garbage pickup and recycling scheduled.

With the new contact approved, Emterra will move to purchase new fleet equipment and have a used fleet collect until September.

The change in companies also brings new collection routes to some Oxford communities.  Also, plastic film products such as plastic bags, plastic wrap or film packaging, and Styrofoam products will not longer be accepted in recycling.  Large Styrofoam drop-off will continue to be available at County recycling centres.