by Valerie Rossi on Thursday May 20 2021
KC Recycling Ltd. has been awarded $852,000 from the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund to jumpstart a $1.2 million plant upgrade, which will create a circular solution to recycling the plastic cases on car batteries already processed at the Trail, BC operation.
This May, the largest recycler of automotive batteries in the Pacific Northwest will renovate their facility to create a Polypropylene Extruding Operation, stimulating regional economic growth while establishing a unique plastic recycling operation in BC's Interior.
"We’re thrilled our project meets the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund criteria to increase domestic recycling capacity as Canada makes changes to keep plastics out of the ocean and comply with the global Basel Convention," says Pete Stamper, KC Recycling’s CEO. “The whole KC Recycling team is proud we’re expanding operations to enable production of finished recycled plastic and providing a real circular economy solution right here in the Kootenays. It aligns with our mission of preserving a sustainable world for future generations."
Located in the Lower Columbia's industrial area, dubbed Metal Tech Alley, KC Recycling’s expansion will strengthen the region's economy with the addition of five positions as the new facility comes online.
The plant will continue to recycle CRT glass (from old televisions and monitors) and electronic scrap while growing its car battery recycling operation with the addition of in-house plastic recycling, an increasing demand for the company—one of the largest provincial generators of this post-consumer polypropylene plastic.
"For every automotive battery processed at our facility, 4.5% of the inbound weight is composed of high quality polypropylene plastic," explains Dan Di Filippo, KC Recycling operating partner and director of business development. "With an annual automotive battery process rate of approximately 80,000,000 lbs, we generate about 3,600,000 lbs of regrind polypropylene plastic per year."
This unfinished plastic regrind is currently exported to polypropylene compounders, where it is pelletized into product specifications that meet manufacturers' requirements. The new plant will localize this last step with an on-site washing, extrusion, and pelletizing lab. KC Recycling will test the refined material to ensure it meets specs before shipping it to battery manufacturers where it is an input for new batteries.
The new in-house process adds significant value, as pelletized and compounded polypropylene plastic is more valuable than regrind. Bottom line: there is a growing need for a plastic recycler in this part of the world, according to Di Filippo.
"The Pacific Northwest is an underserved region for car battery recycling in the sense that there is not enough local recycling capacity, which results in higher export-rates for scrap batteries than in other regions,” he explains. “Hopefully, this improved closed-loop system will provide further incentive to recycle product domestically in North America; more product means more jobs as well as economic growth for the region. All-in-all there’s a good knock-on effect."
The project is championed by the region's economic driver, the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), which is growing the area's innovative, technological, and metallurgical environment under its Metal Tech Alley banner.
"Even though the Lower Columbia region is already a leader in the industrial circular economy, the ability to recycle plastics right here increases the region's prominence and diversity within that circular economy," says Jacomien van Tonder, LCIC’s project coordinator. "Our ICE2021 conference will showcase the range of cleantech and circular economy initiatives in place; this adds yet another example of how our local companies are leading the transition from linear to circular. It’s the kind of development that spotlights us and helps attract further investment."
Administered by the Alacrity Canada Cleantech Program in partnership with the BC government, the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund seeks to bolster BC's circular economy by reducing virgin plastics and making better use of post-consumer recycled plastic in manufacturing processes.
KC Recycling serves as an ambassador for cleantech as they work towards economic recovery and resilience. With initial rollout focused on plastic car battery casings, the new Polypropylene Extruding Operation also looks to accommodate other post-consumer plastic streams.