The circular economy is here in Edmonton: Analyzing the benefits of post-use plastics

Across the globe businesses, communities and policy makers are pursuing strategies to more sustainability manage the products used by society. This includes thinking about product design, and designing systems to enhance the recyclability of products, and to develop more circular strategies for materials after they are used. Edmonton Plastics to Chemicals Thumbnails 05 LG Rob Krebs

Brands, investors and policymakers all need a strong factual basis for evaluating options for managing used materials. So to help provide that data we worked with the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and engineers at the Earth Engineering Center at City College of New York to evaluate the environmental benefits and trade-offs of post-use, non-recycled plastics in a gasification system that converts post-use materials—including plastics—into valuable chemicals and fuels. They found that plastics are very valuable and useful inputs.

The City of Edmonton, where the study was conducted, already has a waste management system worth boasting about. The Edmonton Waste Management Centre, employs the latest recycling, composting, and conversion technologies to maximize the value of the post-use materials its citizens generate. The Centre includes a commercial-scale gasification system from Enerkem, a Montreal-based energy company that converts Edmonton’s non-recycled materials into methanol and ethanol.

To find out how non-recycled plastics affect the process, yield and byproduct generation of its gasification system, engineers tested different gasification feedstocks that included varying percentages of non-recycled plastic. The test results were released today in the study, “The Effects of Non-recycled Plastic (NRP) on Gasification: A Quantitative Assessment.”

The study found that compared to a gasification feedstock of just woody biomass, a feedstock that included 50 percent NRP could make the process more energy efficient, yield more useful product (methanol) for sale into commercial markets, while decreasing the amount of unsaleable byproduct that needed to be landfilled. Clearly even post-use non-recycled plastics are too valuable to waste. The real world implications indicate that increased plastics in the feedstock can reduce fossil energy use, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and decrease waste.

We are excited about the tremendous initiative and innovation taking place in communities such as Edmonton, and believe this will become more common as more communities explore how chemical recycling technologies can produce useful commodities from materials that they formerly landfilled. To learn more about the exciting developments in Edmonton and technical analysis, please read the study or watch our video.

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