British Columbia is giving recyclers, suppliers, and a nonprofit 5 million Canadian dollars (US$4 million) to support the province’s circular economy. Turning plastics from old car batteries into new casings, developing artificial intelligence to sort plastics for recycling, and supporting local micro-recycling facilities are among nine projects receiving money from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund.

The CA$5 million encourages innovation to turn used plastics into new products, supports the circular economy for plastics, and increases local processing capacity for recycling and potentially creating jobs, with benefits for women, young, and Indigenous people. The funded projects will recycle over 20,000 metric tons of plastic per year, according to provincial officials. “These projects show what British Columbians can accomplish when their great ideas and enthusiasm are supported by a government that’s serious about tackling plastic waste and reducing pollution of our land and ocean,” says George Heyman, provincial minister of environment and climate change strategy.

Grant recipients provide at least one-third of each project’s total cost. Projects must be completed by Dec. 31. The projects were chosen based on their ability to increase processing capacity, increase the use of postconsumer recycled plastic in manufacturing, or support PCR plastic product research, design, and testing. Funding recipients include:

  • Flipside Plastics (Victoria): CA$50,000 for a pilot project to gather and process plastics and upcycle them into new products like soap dishes.
  • KC Recycling (Trail): CA$852,997 for plant upgrades to process plastic casings associated with lead-acid car batteries. Pelletized PCR plastic will be used to manufacture new car battery casings.
  • Kootenay Outdoor and Environmental Learning Society (Rossland): CA$14,000 to support processing hard-to-recycle plastics, such as refrigerator inserts, to produce goods for the local ski community. The nonprofit also plans to build an education and demonstration center to showcase circular economic solutions for small communities.
  • Merlin Plastics (Delta): CA$1.56 million for upgrading equipment to increase Merlin’s capacity to process recycled polyethylene and improve the quality of polypropylene, to increase the supply of PCR plastic for new food-grade packaging.
  • Metaspectral (Vancouver): CA$307,533 to develop computer vision, AI, and robotics to sort consumer plastics, increase efficiency in processing materials, and improve the quality of PCR plastic.
  • Plascon Plastics (Delta): CA$600,000 to manufacture the first child-safe cannabis container made from 100% PCR plastic.
  • Reclaim Plastics (Burnaby): CA$667,000 to scale up operations and allow it to recycle automotive plastics besides bumpers.
  • Recycling Alternative (Vancouver): $563,470 to increase capacity to sort and process plastic to be used in local manufacturing.
  • The Rogerie (Kelowna): CA$40,000 to support taking HDPE jugs from zero-waste stores and recycling them into molded products that the stores will resell.

“The circular economy in B.C. shows great promise for economic recovery, reducing emissions, and recycling plastics into new products,” says Jill Doucette, executive director of Synergy Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund’s administration. “In B.C., we have incredible industry leaders in plastic recycling, and this support will help take their efforts to the next level.”

Al Boflo, a partner at Reclaim Plastics, says the grant will help increase the volume and scope of automotive plastics that are recycled instead of ending up in landfills. “Our project will focus on new processing machines and sortation technology. Given automotive plastics are almost always black, the sortation challenge is extremely tricky,” he notes.

Since 2019, the greater Vancouver area has had a disposal ban on auto bodies and parts, but this ban has not been mandated by the rest of British Columbia, so many auto body shops and car recyclers continue to discard automotive plastics. Reclaim Plastics works with companies in British Columbia, Alberta, and Washington state to keep metal clips, screws, and different polymers out of landfills.

Boflo says over 200,000 cars reach their end of life each year in British Columbia. They generate over 80 million pounds of automotive shredder residue. “It’s a big problem,” he says. “We have only scratched the surface of finding solutions, but this is a step in the right direction.” The government funding, a first for Reclaim Plastics, will enable the company to reclaim ABS, polycarbonate, polyvinyl chloride, PP, and thermoplastic polyolefins.

The grants are part of British Columbia’s CA$10 billion COVID-19 response, which includes the StrongerBC economic recovery plan. “The response to the CleanBC Plastics Action Plan shows the vision and scope of British Columbia companies that are using technology in new ways to help make life better for all of us,” says Brenda Bailey, the province’s parliamentary secretary for innovation and technology. “From using artificial intelligence to sort used plastic more efficiently, to 3D printing new products out of old plastic, these companies are creating jobs and improving our environment.”

Boflo says recyclers are the growers of the circular economy. “We bring a new crop of inputs to the market,” he says. “Like farmers, we are also innovative, hardworking, and get a sense of satisfaction in what we do.”

Photo Courtesy of Al Boflo. Caption: Reclaim Plastics recycles automotive bumpers and performs toll grinding services.

Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.