April 2008

Toronto glass processing plant will save municipalities millions in recycling costs

Five Toronto area municipalities will save on the cost of operating their recycling programs thanks to a new glass processing plant scheduled to open its doors in Brampton this summer.

Stewardship Ontario announced that it has a deal with Canadian recycled glass processor, Unical, Inc. to build the plant.

As a start, it will accept all of the glass bottles and jars recycled in Toronto, Hamilton, and the Regions of Peel, York and Durham blue box programs.

To support the development of this new market for blue box colored and clear glass, Stewardship Ontario is providing seed money of $1.75 million to Unical to purchase processing equipment. “One of Stewardship Ontario’s mandates is to develop and enhance markets for recyclable materials leading to improvements in system cost efficiencies,” said Sandra Banks, vice-chair of the board of directors.

“Most people don’t know that Stewardship Ontario is an organization of industry stewards that pays half of the net operating cost of the Ontario blue box program. In the past four years, companies that use packaging and printed paper have contributed or committed more than $188 million to municipalities to help pay recycling costs. In this shared system, both industry and municipalities have a stake in driving down costs whenever possible,” Banks said.

Stewardship Ontario estimates the investment in the Unical plant will be paid back in under two years.

Each of the five municipal partners in the deal stands to save operating costs totaling about $10 million over the seven years of the existing contract. In year one alone, municipal costs savings are estimated to range from $40,000 in Durham which will deliver the least amount of glass to Unical to a high of about $650,000 in Toronto which will ship the largest amount of glass.

In total, the five municipalities will supply a minimum of 44,000 tons of mixed (colored and clear mixed together) blue box glass. This represents about half of the glass estimated to have been collected in residential recycling programs in all of Ontario in 2007.

“In fact, when this plant is fully operational, it will have capacity to process much more glass than these initial 44,000 tons,” said Andre Racine, president of Unical. “We’re expecting we’ll make rapid progress toward our capacity of 120,000 tons because we’ll be almost next door to many municipalities that generate a lot of blue box mixed glass. That will save on transportation costs alone.”

Peel Regional Chair Emil Kolb said, “Glass is and will continue to be an important part of the region’s waste diversion equation. This is a good deal for Peel and it’s a good deal for the industry members of Stewardship Ontario who help pay for the program.” Peel stands to save approximately $250,000 in operation costs in year one and close to $2 million over the seven year contract. “In these days of belt-tightening and rationalizing every tax dollar spent on municipal services, these savings in our waste management portfolio are both welcome and needed,” said York’s Regional Chair, Bill Fisch. York will save in the range of $2 million over seven years, too.

Durham Councillor Charlie Trim said the savings would allow his region to focus on other waste diversion activities, calling it “a win for the environment.” Hamilton Councillor Russ Powers agreed, saying the deal is “an excellent example of how public-private partnerships can benefit both parties. In this case, it will lead to improvements in our waste management program.” City of Toronto representative, Steve Whitter, who is director of transfer, processing and landfills said he expects the amount of glass Toronto ships to the Unical plant will increase significantly after the city fully launches its new recycling and garbage bin program. “We know from the experience of other cities that recycling rates climb when the rollout bins are introduced.”

Racine is optimistic about the future of the plant. He predicts a significant positive shift in the market for post consumer glass as demand for recycled materials increases.