Home-based recycling business hopes to make a dent in corporate plastic waste

An Edmonton man has started a business aiming to turn corporate plastic waste into new products and keep it from landfills.

Edmontonian also generating unique data that could be useful to future recycling models

An Edmonton business aims to turn waste plastic into new products. (Submitted by Corey Saban)

An Edmonton man has started a business aiming to turn corporate plastic waste into new products that will keep it from landfills.

Corey Saban started Re Waste out of his garage when, after years working in construction, he was laid off near the beginning of the pandemic last spring.

He decided to take a look at the plastic waste in his household and that curiosity blossomed into a burgeoning business.

"We started just working with single-use plastic bags and transformed those into tiles," Saban told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

These first products, hexagonal tiles that are assembled into wall protectors, were the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Goodwill. Now Saban collects the charity's waste plastic, which is shredded at its Impact Centre and will be turned into sheets for use in its warehouse.

Initially, Saban rigged up some homemade processes, using household items like a kitchen griddle or clothes iron to melt down the plastic. Since then, he has purchased small-scale equipment to shred plastic into flakes that can be heated and moulded into other products

He has been having discussions with several organizations about scaling up and launching in different markets.

"It's going to be going to the bank, get financing, scale up the business, get out of the garage, get that warehouse, bring equipment from Europe to Canada so that we can be a functioning, operating business."

The hexagon-shaped tiles made from recycled plastic were used to make wall padding for Goodwill locations. (Submitted by Corey Saban)

Another target for Saban is data collection. Re Waste has done several pilots, including one that ran last fall in Beaumont, Alta.

Over three weeks, the project gathered 124 kilograms of plastic from 66 households in the small city. Using that data, Saban estimates Beaumont's 18,000 residents produce about 260,742 kilograms of plastic waste each year.

"One thing that we really focused on was the data that came out of that plastic," Saban said.

Each piece collected during the final week was analyzed and put into a database to better understand where the plastic is coming from.

It's a factor that could be crucial to the future of recycling in Alberta as the province looks into an extended producer responsibility (EPR) model.

EPR essentially means the companies that make packaging and other waste would pay, or be responsible, for disposing of it, usually through a recycling program.

Saban said the collected data would be useful to producers in that model, giving a more localized view of single-use plastic production.

"Because it's not that they don't want to be a part of it, they're just looking at how does it make sense to be part of it."

Alberta planning EPR engagement

A spokesperson from Alberta Environment and Parks said the department is expected to engage stakeholders who have indicated an interest in giving feedback on EPR sometime this spring.

The department is also a participant in the Plastics Alliance of Alberta, an independent group that supports advances in plastic recycling and is providing recommendations on how to implement EPR in the province. 

Christina Seidel, executive director of the Recycling Council of Alberta, said an EPR policy could be good for municipalities.

"All it does is it takes the burden of paying for those programs, at least some of the burden, off those who are paying for it now, which is primarily municipalities, so they don't have to pay the bill anymore." 

Seidel said she's received indication discussions with the province would focus on paper and packaging as well as household hazardous waste.

She said it's an opportune time to move forward as producers and municipalities are ready to engage.

"Everybody wants this to happen."