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CPIA leads tour of Edmonton’s mega-recycling facility

On October 5, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) co-sponsored a tour of the future.


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October 14, 2011 by Canadian Plastics

Bird's eye view of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.
Bird's eye view of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

On October 5, the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) co-sponsored a tour of the future.

Well, okay, one possible future: a fully integrated waste management facility where virtually every scrap of garbage is put to use, either as organics for composting, waste for recycling, waste for landfill or waste for conversion to ethanol.

Over 200 plastics industry members spent the day at the Edmonton Waste Management Centre (EWMC), North America’s largest collection of modern, sustainable waste processing and research facilities. Situated on 233 hectares of land, the EWMC encompasses an integrated processing and transfer facility, a materials recovery facility, a composting facility, a construction and demolition recycling operation, and a treatment plant. Founded in 2000, the operation is fast approaching its goal of increasing the city’s residential landfill waste diversion rate from 60 per cent to an enviable-even-in-Europe 90 per cent. That impressive number is expected to be hit when a new $80 million pre-processing facility and biofuels plant, designed to handle virtually all nonrecycled residual plastics, becomes operational by the end of 2014. Owned and operated by Enerkem Alberta Biofuels, the new plant will convert 100,000 tons of plastic waste into 36 million litres of biofuels annually. (How? After being dried, sorted and shredded, the feedstock will be turned into a gas in a so-called ‘gasifier’, which uses air as a partial oxidation agent and/or oxygen-enriched air, with the oxygen-enrichment level tailored to the desired composition of the synthetic gas. After that, the gas is cleaned and conditioned for use through a sequential conditioning system, and then converted into high-value, market-ready fuel by a sequential catalytic conversion process.)

The educational tour on October 5 – which demonstrated leading-edge waste management technologies from recycling to solid waste recovery – was sponsored by the CPIA, the American Chemistry Council and the Alberta Plastics Recycling Association. “This event highlighted the fact that there are now technologies in use in North America that allow us to treat waste as a resource,” said Greg Wilkinson, the CPIA’s president and CEO. “At the end of their life, plastics can have valuable future roles as an energy source or to be reprocessed into other products. It’s too valuable a product to waste, and initiatives and partnerships such as this one are a prime example of what can and is being done to divert plastics and other materials from landfill.”

It might just be the recycled, gaseous shape of things to come.