How patio furniture and fence posts might solve N.S.'s plastic recycling woes

A Halifax company says it has a made in Nova Scotia solution to the challenge of recycling plastics: turn shopping bags into usable products.

Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd. says with new equipment it can handle 'more plastic than Nova Scotia produces'

Dan Chassie of Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd. said he hopes that patio furniture made from recycled plastic will be available for sale as soon as this summer. (CBC)

A Halifax-area company says it has a made-in-Nova Scotia solution to the challenge of recycling plastics — turn shopping bags into fence posts and patio furniture.

Municipalities across the province have scrambled to find new markets for recycled plastic after China stopped accepting the material last year.

The Halifax region, for instance, ended up with a 300-tonne backlog and was given permission to landfill the waste, although in the end it found out-of-province markets that would recycle the plastic or burn it for energy.

But Dan Chassie, the president of Halifax C&D Recycling Ltd., a company that handles construction and demolition waste, says he's got another answer to the province's plastic woes.

"With the equipment that we have now," Chassie said, "we'll be able to handle more plastic than Nova Scotia produces."

Halifax C&D has a plastic shredder at its site in Goodwood and plans to upgrade its equipment. It recently bought a new piece of equipment called an extruder, which melts plastic and pushes it into a variety of forms, creating a kind of lumber.

The extruder is temporarily set up at a facility in Burnside.

"It's very similar to regular lumber," Chassie said.

The plastic is run through a shredder located in Goodwood. (CBC)

Chassie is in the middle of finding a permanent home for his new equipment, but has already started work on creating new products. He hopes to use low-end plastics to make fence posts for the agricultural sector and turn higher-end plastics into patio furniture.

The head of Halifax's solid waste division said he's is keeping a close eye on the plastic lumber project.

"We'd most definitely be interested in sending HRM's plastic to a local company, but the price has to be right," said Matt Keliher.

Chassie said he considers the next six months a period of research and development, but hopes some patio furniture will be available for sale by this summer.

Halifax C&D has asked LakeCity Woodworkers in Dartmouth to create the outdoor furniture.

"I think it's tremendously exciting," said Liam O'Rourke, LakeCity's executive director. "We are basically taking a disposal material and making something that's going to last for a really long time."

Liam O'Rourke of LakeCity Woodworkers said if all goes to plan, his workforce could double because of the C&D initiative. (CBC)

LakeCity Woodworkers' is a non-profit group that provides employment for people with mental illness. More than 30 people work there now.

O'Rourke said creating patio furniture from the plastic lumber could double the workforce. The material feels like solid wood, he said, but can come in different colours, which eliminates the finishing stage.

"There's definitely going to be a learning curve, but I'm really hopeful that we're going to find a way to work with this product and make some really beautiful stuff," said O'Rourke.

He said there are a few places in Canada that manufacture plastic furniture, but there's none in Nova Scotia.

About the Author

Pam Berman

Reporter

Pam Berman is CBC Nova Scotia's municipal affairs reporter. She's been a journalist for almost 35 years and has covered Halifax regional council since 1997. That includes four municipal elections, 19 budgets and countless meetings. Story ideas can be sent to pam.berman@cbc.ca