While blue boxes across Canada have helped provide a second life for disposable plastics, some plastics are of such low quality that they can’t be cost-effectively recycled (think plastic shopping bags). And currently in Canada, less than 11% of eligible materials are actually recycled, due to a host of challenges facing the recycling industry.
But thanks to GreenMantra Technologies of Brantford, Ontario, there is hope for lower-grade plastics. GreenMantra’s patented technology repurposes used plastics into industrially useful waxes and lubricants. The plastic waste is broken down to the molecular level, then processed and mixed into products like asphalt, inks, adhesives and coatings.
Given that there is projected to be 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste in landfills (or in oceans) globally by 2050, to say that there is international interest in GreenMantra’s technology would be an understatement. The City of Vancouver was one of the earliest purchasers of their products, integrating GreenMantra’s waxes into its asphalt paving mix.
Government programs played an important role in helping GreenMantra get off the ground. The company received more than $4 million in start-up investment through Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and in 2013, received $750,000 from FedDev Ontario to scale up its commercial operations.
The company also got a boost from the government-supported MaRS innovation hub, which helped it refine its business plan and connect with investors, soon scoring more than $17 million in venture capital from private venture capital.
GreenMantra has also turned its attention to the growing problem of polystyrene waste, developing a technology that cuts the material into smaller pieces and turns them into an entirely new useful product.
The company recently completed a new demonstration plant for the technology, which will convert polystyrene into styrenic polymers that can be used as inks and coatings by the printing industry. Critically, these will replace products currently made with fossil fuels.
It turns out that we can harness Canadian ingenuity to transform trash into treasure – all while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.