Majority of plastic recyclables in Halifax being turned into synthetic lumber

It's possible the plastic shopping bags that you recycled last week could eventually be turned into a bench you'll one day sit on.

That's because the majority of plastics recycled in the Halifax area are now going to a local company that turns the waste into plastic lumber.

Andrew Philopoulos, manager of Halifax's solid waste division, said about 80 per cent of municipal plastics are being recycled at Goodwood Plastic Products Ltd.

"We are very, very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to have that local company taking the material," Philopoulos told CBC's Information Morning.

"Without them, I think we would find it challenging to find a market for a lot of the plastic packaging that we are collecting."

Philopoulos said the remaining 20 per cent of recyclables collected are shipped to other markets in Canada, where they're used in the petrochemical industry to make new plastic products.

Submitted by Mike Chassie
Submitted by Mike Chassie

He said the municipality's arrangement with Goodwood Plastic Products of Stewiacke, N.S., is unique.

"It's certainly a great example of someone thinking outside the box and coming up with a new solution of how to manage this material," said Philopoulos.

Mike Chassie, vice-president of Goodwood, said Halifax has always been an advocate for finding better ways to manage end-of-life materials.

"It's a nice homegrown solution," he said of his company's arrangement with the municipality.

Chassie said the company is taking plastics such as shopping bags, food containers and peanut butter jars. The material is then manufactured into synthetic lumber, wharf timbers, guardrail posts and agricultural posts.

He said his company's product has been used by Dartmouth's LakeCity Plastics to create outdoor furniture like park benches and picnic tables. Last summer, the municipality purchased 50 picnic tables to place in parks and at beaches.

'The proving ground'

Goodwood also recently worked with Sobeys to create one of the first parking lots in Canada made almost entirely of post-consumer plastics diverted from local landfills.

In 2017, municipalities across the province were scrambling to find new markets for recycled plastic after China stopped accepting the material.

Philopoulos said roughly 90 to 95 per cent of a backlog of recyclable material that accumulated during that time went to other markets to be used as alternative fuel, while a small portion went to landfills.

He recognized that the relationship with Goodwood has solved the problem of what to do with the plastic, at least in the short-term.

Chassie said many jurisdictions across North America and indeed the world are facing similar challenges, and he foresees his company as being part of the solution.

"I guess you can call it the proving ground," said Chassie.

"We can take this business — the knowledge and our skills — and we can export it and take it to other places. Post-consumer plastic is not going away, so we need to continue to find ways to give it a new life so it becomes a resource, instead of a waste."