Thunder Bay

Tire recycling plant eyed for Thunder Bay, Ont.

Shipping thousands of tonnes of tires to southern Ontario every year from Thunder Bay, has one entrepreneur seeing a business opportunity.

Company wants to expand operations from Sault Ste. Marie, moving across northern Ontario

Most of the process to recycle tires takes place in a tunnel, similar to this one, which Terreco Inc. proposes to bring to Thunder Bay, Ont., in 2022. (Submitted by Mitch Ouimette)

Shipping thousands of tonnes of tires to southern Ontario every year from Thunder Bay, Ont., has one entrepreneur seeing a business opportunity.

Mitch Ouimette said he wants to build a tire recycling facility in the city, similar to one that has been in operation in Sault Ste. Marie. Ouimette said he is restarting the plant in the Sault, and hoped to replicate it on the western side of Lake Superior.

Ouimette, the CEO of Torrecco Inc., said 6,000 metric tonnes of tires are shipped every year from Thunder Bay to Brantford. He said the decision and associated costs to ship all that material don't add up.

"The logical question was: why are we shipping them 14 hours away? Why aren't we processing them directly in the community, creating jobs in the community and processing the tires in a sound and environmentally friendly way."

Ouimette said the plant in the Sault can process about 25 tonnes of tires per day, which produces materials that can be re-sold.

"As we process the tires, they go through a microwave system. Once we get to the end, we're producing basically a Canadian crude; we're also producing steel, which is sold to the steel industry; we're also producing a synthetic gas, which we use for power generation in our facility; and the big product we're after is the carbon black."

Carbon black, he said, is used in a number of products, including black plastic. It's a valuable material that is used in everything from remote controls to tires.

"We can take our carbon black as well as our oil and sell them back to the tire industry to create whole new tires, or we can also look at taking the carbon black, and mixing it with recycled plastic to make a high-value master batch plastic for the plastics industry."

Ouimette said while the plant in the Sault has proven the method of recycling the tires is feasible, he said his organization is still doing its due diligence for a Thunder Bay plant. That will include asking for public feedback and engaging with First Nations when it comes to site selection and operations.

The goal is to start construction next year on a $15-million plant, Ouimette said, which would process tires and create up to 20 jobs. 

While microwaving tires may bring up the image of a scrap yard, added Ouimette, the process, including shredding, is all done inside the plant, which meets provincial standards, and produces about 99 metric tonnes of CO2 per year.

That is less than the current approach of trucking all the tires to southern Ontario, Ouimette said.


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.