For all recycling gets a bad rap, the fact remains that 90.5% of the plastic ever produced has not been recycled and has instead gone to take up space in landfills around the world. It’s the final R, but a crucial one, if we want to protect our land and water from pollution, leachates, and microplastics.
Check out ways you can help to Refuse and Reduce plastics!
More ways to reduce single-use plastics in your day to day life
But, in the face of a tightening recycling world where end-market countries are restricting contamination to ever-smaller percentages, what are we to do with the plastics we DO end up with? In Winnipeg, as in most Manitoba communities, flexible plastics like grocery bags, cling wrap, and sandwich zipper bags are all not accepted in recycling programs. Nor are single-use coffee cups, black plastics, styrofoam (large, non-black plastics such as outdoor furniture, are accepted as special items at 4R depots in Winnipeg). While #1 and #2 plastics generally have a good market value (these are the plastics that most drinks, milk, and many household items come packaged in), the markets for #3-7 are tougher. While the City of Winnipeg accepts almost every kind of plastic in either the blue bin or a 4R depot, some still pose problems and challenges.
One solution is to create local markets to turn these “difficult” plastics into usable new products. In November 2018, Green Action Centre staff had a chance to tour one such startup company in Winnipeg as part of the Manitoba Association of Regional Recyclers conference.
ReGen Composites is a fairly new company, still scaling up their operations and slowly expanding their capacity and product offerings. Located near Oak Bluff, their goal is to take all numbers of plastic, as well as fibre waste (like chipped Christmas trees and those pesky single-use coffee cups), and turn it into a functional product. They designed a brick shaped like a cinder block, made out of their proprietary material mix they’ve called PolyMass.
They accept any kind of plastic, even carpets and fibreglass (except for expanded polystyrene, better known as styrofoam), and fibre
waste, then grind them up into small parts. These are fed into a machine, which heats them and adds a few proprietary substances, and out comes “PolyMass”. We saw a pretty impressive demonstration of how strong and heatproof this substance is: they had one of us take a sledgehammer and swing at both a traditional concrete cinderblock, and a polymass cinderblock. The concrete block shattered in one hit, but nobody could even make a dent in the PolyMass block. We also took a blowtorch to one side of the PolyMass block and had a volunteer touch the other side of it with their bare hand, just about 2″ away from the blistering flame. It was cool to the touch.
Currently they’re selling pallet stringers – the larger pieces that hold a pallet together – because they can make them cheaper than the virgin wood usually used to make pallets. It’s a competitive market that produces a lot of waste, so they hope to make a dent. Often as consumers we may not think about all the “upstream” waste associated with producing, packaging, and shipping our goods to the markets we buy them in, whether that’s a local mom & pop store or online giants like Amazon. Pallets are used for shipping and warehousing, and that industry alone in the United States uses 43% of the hardwood and 15% of the softwood the entire country produces.
For now, ReGen is not accepting plastic waste from the general public.
In the meantime, don’t forget: Refuse and Reduce are the first two “R”s!
I also find Chris rather abrupt and sometimes rude, but I am happy his business exists. I don’t mind paying the $65 for the bags, it is up to each individual as to how much waste we accumulate, and if we choose to buy products in plastic, well, then we need Chris. We need to own our own contribution to the destruction of this planet, and pay for it to be recycled. There is great opportunity out there for “green” businesses, and Chris as taken the risk and created a business that helps the rest of us get rid of our recycling. Nobody works for free – and he COMES TO PICK IT UP!
I think Chris is open for plastic recycling. Try it!
Winnipeg Recycling Service Inc.
[note: contact information removed by administrator by WRS Inc. request]
Thanks Chan! I appreciate you sharing this as we forgot to update the blog post!
I advise against using him. He was extremely unprofessional and rude with me when asking if I could add certain plastics into his bags and wondering about bigger bags as one often cannot stuff 4.5 kg plastic in to the bags he provides, essentially being cheated out of money one pays for it!
Thank you for sharing your experience. We’ve found Winnipeg Recycling Service to be most useful for filmy plastics and other very compressible items, vs. bulkier items like styrofoam. At this time, we’re not aware of any other option for most of the materials he takes, in terms of diverting them from the landfill.
Chris just came to our door to pick up our last 3 bags. He was not wearing a mask and was very rude when I asked him for more information about his company. He would not supply any information about his company or the products. He said he does not want to have more customers because they “waste his time” asking questions. I’m not going to continue purchasing his services at this time although it is with regret as I hoped to divert plastic and styrofoam from the landfill.
I have collected lots of non-recyclable plastic and aluminum pan from prepared food/soup through take out /pick up . Hope to know where we can send them to be recycle.
I think the company that manufacture non-recyclable receptacle should be changing their products to recyclable.
Aluminum to Urban mine, so it actually gets recycled as a very expensive material to make from raw (energy intensive) and can be recycled indefinitely! Chris likely only melts it into his blobs of plastic.
Rose, we definitely agree that producers need to responsible for their products and packaging, cradle to cradle! Birte has suggested Urban Mine for these items, which is great thinking, though I’d recommend checking with them first. Aluminum foil as well as aluminum pie plates/lasagne trays etc. melt at a different temperature than aluminum beverage containers, so must be processed separately. This is why they’re not always accepted in recycling systems.
Winnipeg Recycling Service is back in business. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org They will bring you 5 bags for $65. I don’t want to pay for the bags but I will as it will ease my conscience and also clear out my basement!I
Can it be confirmed that Wpg Recycling Service is back? I am unable to find any information about them since last year. Thanks!
We are quite certain Chris is back in business! I’ve seen several people post in groups that I’m personally part of who have signed up for the re-booted service and Lisa Naylor (MLA for Wolseley) has shared about this on her personal page. You can always team up with friends or family to buy bags if you don’t need five for yourself!
Do you know if Winnipeg Recycling Service has a website? Their handout has info on how to contact them, but I’m interested in knowing more – what they produce, where they sell it, how big the company is etc. A simple google search didn’t give me anything. Also, the goods they collect are mainly plastic but they also collect aluminum food trays. I just thought that was odd on a list entitled “Recycle our plastic packaging.” I’m not complaining though 🙂
Great question! Chris is totally off-grid in terms of the internet so you’re not missing anything, there’s just nothing to Google. What we’ve seen from him in the past is that he makes plastic lumber for planters, though that may have changed. Unfortunately, the only way to access that information would be to call him directly. As I understand it, the reason he takes aluminum food trays is because his equipment can melt it down/squash it into the lumber he creates. It’s not a very complex product – everything gets melted down and squashed into one big blob (again, this is from before his reboot, so things may have changed) – so it can handle some level of these non-plastic products.
They are back. He collects them. Ask for the bags to put your plastics in, and he will take them.
Gov,t should fund companies to recycle plastics
That’s an interesting thought, Larry. I would say it would make more sense for said companies to cover/contribute towards the cost of recycling their own packaging (to promote more sustainable manufacturing and reuse), whether that’s done in-house or not. But it’s certainly within the government’s role to create programs for this and hold companies accountable. What do you think?
There should be a deposit system on everything, stop relying on the government they do a poor job of anything they touch
email@example.com offers a non-recyclable pick-up service. You pay for it, but it’s a way to your non-recyclable plastics picked up. They use it to build 2x4s, etc.
Unfortunately this service ended and has not been available for the past year or so. I’ve heard that the owner may be looking to do something with this again in the future but for now, it is shut down.
I hope the service resumes.
I have been collecting the non-recyclable plastics at home and work. Actually one of my previous co-worker and I were thinking proposing this fun project to the Beavers young kids. We are sad to see this business gone.
I am still collecting and hope there is an alternative coming up soon! Meanwhile, we need to think reduce the usage and recycle as much as possible.
I have been saving packing and non-recyclable plastic for over a year. I now have 2 huge gas of plastic that is taking up quite a bit of room in my basement, but really don’t want to through them out. I originally learned of saving this plastic from a colleague whose grandson participated in a project where all manner of plastic was saved. This project ended for him, but I continue to save the plastic in hopes of recycling this plastic. Can you recommend a school or project I can donate this to? My husband is starting to question my sanity. A response would be great. This would be a windfall for any school project. A response would be great.
I know there are schools in Manitoba who collect plastic grocery bags for recycling, but unfortunately I do not know which specific ones are collecting at the moment. They also only take the grocery bags.
It sounds like you’ve been collecting a lot of different types of plastic? Are you located in Winnipeg?
I would contact ReGen Composites to see if you can drop off your bags of mixed plastics there – they don’t regularly take dropoffs from the public but it’s unlikely they’d actually turn you away if they’re clean/non-contaminated with food.
Are any of your plastics accepted in the blue bin program? You can find out here if you’re in Winnipeg: https://recyclecoach.com/canada/mb/winnipeg/30006/reminder
Beyond that, if you or somebody you know has Facebook, there’s some local groups that could help you with reaching out to teachers or schools who may be collecting plastics:
Bunz Trading Zone Winnipeg
Buy Nothing Groups (these are present all over North America, but they’re hyper-local so there may or may not be one for your area)
Journey to Zero Waste Winnipeg
I hope these options help! Feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reply here if you have further questions or get stuck! Let’s try to get that plastic recycled (and for what it’s worth, we think it’s very sane to try to recycle as much as possible without contaminating the blue bins!)