Battery recycler Terrapure Environmental is diving deeper into polypropylene reprocessing after studying both the economic and environmental considerations of making such a move.
Terrapure's Ville de Sainte-Catherine, Quebec, battery recycling plant previously only chipped used battery casings and sent that plastic along to other recyclers for further processing.
But now the company, which also has a battery recycling plant in Mississauga, Ontario, is further processing those chips to create recycled plastic pellets through a nearly C$30 million (US$21.7 million) expansion, the company said.
"We previously sent polypropylene chips from both of our locations to recyclers in the U.S. to be further processed into pellet form. All of our chips were recycled, just not in-house," CEO Ryan Reid said in an email interview.
The plastics recycling operation is housed in a new 10,000-square-foot building at the company's existing Ville de Ste-Catherine site. The facility includes a shredder, wash line, extruder, storage silos and loading stations for bulk truck and rail transportation.
"The opening of this new facility allows us to further process our chips internally with excess capacity to allow for future growth. By moving up the plastics recycling value chain, we are able to further close the recycling loop for our battery manufacturing customers," he said.
Instead of selling the used PP to other processors, Terrapure looked at the market and decided there was value for the company to further handle the material.
"We completed a comprehensive market assessment and business plan for plastic recycling. It was clear that the business case exists for us to further recycle our plastic to pellet form internally as it allows us to provide an added-value service to customers. We believe there is more economic value in upgrading the chips ourselves as opposed to shipping them to a third party to do so," Reid said.
"Part of the rationale has to do with the fact that plastic chips are considered hazardous waste for cross-border transportation and pellets are not. Therefore the process to ship chips is much more complicated and the liability associated with shipping pellets is much less. At the same time, we are able to lower our carbon footprint by reducing the amount of transportation involved in the recycling of plastic. Together these factors help further make the business case," he continued.
Terrapure currently is recycling plastic from the Ville de Ste-Catherine facility and will soon add plastic from the Mississauga site.
The company recycles about 12 million batteries each year and can recover up to 16,500 tons (15,000 metric tons) of plastic each year. The company also can recover up to 147,400 tons (134,000 metric tons) of lead annually.
Pellets are shipped to customers throughout North America by truck or rail to produce new products, including new battery casings, the CEO said.
A typical lead battery contains 4-5 percent plastic by weight, the company said. The expanded recycling operation includes washing and shredding followed by extrusion to create the pellets. The company currently is operating the recycling equipment around the clock five days per week with about 15 full-time workers.
"Battery casings is an area of focus for us and our core customers as the addition of plastic recycling allows us to add more value and further close the loop for battery manufacturers by being able to recycle their plastic in addition to their lead," Reid said.
"However, the customer base we are developing will be much broader, as our finished polypropylene pellets are an excellent fit for several applications. For example, the pellets can be used in applications such as automotive parts and handling products such as plastic storage bins and pallets," he said.