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Plastics recycler fills a big void (September 24, 2010)

Some statistics can put you to sleep. Here’s one that should wake you up: less than 25 per cent of pla...


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September 24, 2010 by Canadian Plastics

The end result: plastic repelletized from post-consumer waste.
The end result: plastic repelletized from post-consumer waste.

Some statistics can put you to sleep. Here’s one that should wake you up: less than 25 per cent of plastics packaging is recovered for recycling in Canada, compared with almost 60 per cent being recovered for paper packaging.

It’s a number that Martin Vogt, the winner of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association’s 2010 Newcomer of the Year Award, is trying to improve.

Vogt is the president of EFS-Plastics Inc., an Elmira, Ont.-based company that recycles mixed post-consumer plastic into pellets that are used to manufacture plastic bags, tool boxes, piping and other products. In some ways, it’s the job he was raised to do. Born in Germany’s Black Forest region, Vogt got his first exposure to the possibilities of plastics recycling at an early age: his father operated an extrusion and post-consumer plastics recycling company that used the recycled plastics as a new source of raw material. Vogt started as a tool and die maker and then went back to school and studied mechanical engineering, specializing in plastics engineering.

OPPORTUNITY BECKONS

Arrived in Canada in 2006, Vogt saw a paradox – and also an opportunity: eco-friendly Canadians were eager to recycle plastic material, but local businesses either weren’t responding or weren’t succeeding. “Nobody in Canada was successfully recycling post-consumer plastics, which is more difficult than recycling simple post-industrial plastic. Almost all of the material was being shipped overseas,” he said. “The few companies that did attempt it here were unsuccessful because they didn’t use the right technology and didn’t understand how to make the business work. I knew from my background how to do it.”

It helps to be lucky, though, and initially Vogt wasn’t; the Great Recession started just after EFS did, sending oil prices down and making its product less competitive. The company hung on, and business began to recover early this year. It’s gotten better since: EFS recently received funding from Stewardship Ontario and Waste Diversion Ontario to develop new processing capacity for mixed and film plastics, and also received a contract to produce pellets used in the new “Tote for Life” shopping basket offered by the Sobeys supermarket chain.

GROWTH AND RECOGNITION

Currently EFS recycles more than 7,500 tons of post-consumer plastic a year – sorting it by type, removing contaminants, cleaning it and then repelletizing it into PP and LDPE pellets. Vogt wants to double that amount by the end of 2011, which will mean moving out of the company’s current 30,000 square foot facility – most likely into nearby Kitchener – and adding another production line.

The CPIA award contributed to what is turning into a very good year. “It was an honour to win the Newcomer Award,” he said. “I was nominated by my customers, and didn’t know about this until I was informed that I won. I believe in dealing with my customers honestly, and I look on their nomination as proof that they know it.”