A few months ago, the Times reported on attempts being made by a local resident, Vicky Stamison, to bring a major environmental issue to the attention of the North Grenville Municipal Council. Literally thousands of heavy plastic bags are being dumped into landfill sites every month, because there was no market for recycling that kind of plastic material. The loss of recycling facilities in China had resulted in the contractors hired by the Municipality refusing to accept any more of the heavy plastic bags- used for animal feed, water softening salts and other applications – and this meant they were landing in the landfill instead of recycling plants.
Now, a new technology to North America is promising an alternative and productive destination for these plastic bags. A process that has been developed by an Irish company, called Polyfuel Group, is being introduced by BBL Energy Inc., which is planning to build a new recycling plant in Johnstown.
The process, called pyrolysis, breaks down plastic waste and tires into fuel oil, natural gas and carbon char. The technology involved allows small recycling plants to handle large quantities of plastics, on what the Polyfuel Group calls “a highly cost effective basis that is capable of producing high quality and high yields of commercially valued fuels”. To date, recycling plants using this process have been built in India and Africa, and one is being built in Wales.
Grant Lawson, president of BBL Energy Inc., has stated that his new plant in Johnstown “will be able to take such ‘dirty’ plastic waste as water bottles, food containers like margarine tubs, plastic bags, hospital waste, straws and industrial drums”, and transform it into valuable light diesel oil and natural gas, a far better result than dumping it in a landfill site.
The Johnstown plant is expected to be capable of processing up to 18 tons of plastic a day, resulting in the production of between 14,000 and 18,000 litres of diesel every twenty-four hours. The process can also be used to recycle old tires and oil into energy.
The machines being installed by BBL Energy at Johnstown can easily be used in municipalities like North Grenville to handle our own plastic waste and produce financial benefit to the municipality, as they are modular in design and can be adapted for small-scale use. The plants do not use local water supplies and generate their own power; they are quiet and will not disturb either the neighbours nor the environment. A win-win situation, especially since it is calculated that less than 10% of plastic is currently being recycled. The other 90% ends up in landfills, and the new technology developed by the Polyfuel Group will mean that the burden on landfill sites will be greatly reduced in future. In addition, the cost and environmental impact of trucking large quantities of plastic to landfill sites and/or recycling plants will be reduced, as the new technology will allow plants to be built locally, using locally-generated materials in the process.
Grant Lawson hopes to have his Johnstown plant up and running by the end of March. It is intended to be a model for municipalities to examine, and, he hopes, be inspired to buy one of his new machines for their local use. The new Municipal Councils in North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford would do worse than to get together and see if this technology can be adopted for local use.