A Victoria resident has started a pilot project to create a local plastic recycling company on a small scale.
Laska Pare came to B.C. three years ago after a stint in Africa. It was there she witnessed the effects of single-use plastic and the pollution that is fast accumulating around the world.
With that in mind she found a micro-plastics movement online called Precious Plastic, an open-source sharer of technologies for small-scale plastic recycling.
Through the online community Pare tracked down a machinist in Portland, Ore., who built and shipped her a plastic shredder and a plastic injection machine (which will melt the shredded plastic into a mould) that she got last week. Now she’s on the cusp of launching an eight-month pilot project that she hopes to turn into a long-term business called Flipside Plastics.
“There’s a huge demand on recycled plastics from a massive industry of manufacturing but not many actual recyclers,” Pare said. “We don’t have buyers for the end product of recycling, it costs a lot to produce and most of it ends up in the garbage. We’re throwing away billions of dollars of plastic each year after a single-use.”
The goal of Precious Plastic and the micro-recycling movement is to promote more local plastic recycling businesses. Pare is committed and has found there are a lot of steps between opening the website and opening a business.
One of the barriers for plastic recycling is the cost to collect it, sort it and have it cleaned. Working on a small scale means it’s easier to source clean plastics. If she can find a light industrially zoned spot, she can get a business licence and prove Flipside Plastics is a viable business by hiring staff and making sales.
“I’ve approached banks, micro-lenders, and applied for grants,” Pare said. “The biggest challenge is finding light industrially zoned space, 500 square feet, that can accommodate the trial.”
Industrial leases are hard to come by as commercial landlords typically want a five-year lease.
“I’m already getting a lot of requests, but it’s a little ahead of what I can provide. I’ve had requests for orders of 100,000 units. It’s great there is interest and people have heard about me. Businesses want to source locally,” Pare said.
Pare found an Island machinist who is creating the moulds for her.
“Soap dishes. They seem to be a big request,” she said.
With a plastic shredder prototype now in her Quadra Village condo, Pare is eager to take the next step, already testing which plastics work best. Plastics are categorized by number though not all are marked.
Complicating matters is that small plastics, such as bread tags, are unmarked, or can fall through bigger recycling machines.
“They’re usually a No. 6, but you have to get some of the plastics tested. These are microplastics that never get recycled so I am inspired to work with these. Otherwise, they often end up in the trash.”
There’s also No. 7 plastic, a low-grade type of plastic that has become increasingly popular and which encompasses “compostable” coffee cup lids, often made of corn starch.
“The lids are not actually compostable, not without a proper incinerator. They can’t go in the garbage and be expected to break down,” she said. “They are low-quality plastics, you can’t do anything with them. Compostable plastic is not actually a great thing.”
For more information about Flipside Plastics visit flipsideplastics.com.
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