Circular Economy Success Stories

Posted March 2, 2018

As we celebrate Partners in Project Green’s 10th anniversary, we turn the spotlight on some of the innovative efforts our community members have made to green their operations.

Founded in 2008, Partners in Project Green works with the business community in the Greater Toronto Area to improve sustainability in energy efficiency, water conservation, employee engagement and waste minimization. The two case studies presented here represent prime examples of the circular economy. They demonstrate that circular economy programs can divert waste from landfill, support the local economy, and build social capital through support for non-profit organizations.

Maple Leaf Foods

Maple Leaf Foods manufactures a wide range of food products, including deli meat and sausages. In the course of recent equipment upgrades, Maple Leaf Foods found itself left with a significant quantity of used paraffin wax – a former part of its manufacturing process. While paraffin wax was unlikely to meet any traditional recycling acceptance criteria, some form of diversion solution was needed. What to do?

Maple Leaf turned to Partners in Project Green for help in finding a destination for the material. Our research led us to Décor Group of Companies, an Ontario-based manufacturer of fireplace products that has embraced a circular business model. Décor Group manufactures wood mouldings for homes, which generate large quantities of sawdust byproduct. Recognizing the potential value of this waste, they developed a firewood substitute called Bio-Brick, successfully monetizing the waste stream and creating a secondary business built entirely on circular economy thinking.

Partners in Project Green contacted Décor Group to see whether the paraffin wax might be of value, and indeed it was, as Décor Group happened to be procuring paraffin wax for their fire starters, and could use Maple Leaf’s material.

“With small adjustments to our manufacturing process, we are able to repurpose the used material and ensure it has a second life,” said Maurizio Bruno, co-Founder of Deco Group. “We are thrilled to accept Maple Leaf Food’s paraffin wax and has capacity to utilize further paraffin material generated in the local community.”

Aileen Villanueva, Environmental & Sustainability Specialist for Maple Leaf Foods, said that the company successfully diverted 1.6 tonnes of paraffin wax from landfill.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the initiative with Décor Group of Companies and support the circular economy,” Villanueva said.

By making this connection, Maple Leaf Foods was able to divert an unusual waste stream from landfill while lowering its waste haulage bills. Décor Group provided all transportation and, in return, received valuable material for remanufacture.

Air Canada

Air Canada, the country’s largest airline and a longtime member of Partners in Project Green, has a strong commitment to sustainability. The company’s many initiatives have included efforts to divert unusual waste streams from landfill. Among these efforts: finding a second home for the duvets that the airline provides for passengers.

Air Canada washes these duvets after use and puts them back to work. Once a duvet no longer meets the airline’s specifications, it is retired from in-flight use. But what then? North America has limited infrastructure for textile recycling, so most such materials that cannot be reused end up as waste.

With the support of Partners in Project Green, Air Canada connected with a number of non-profit organizations that were able to accept and reuse the duvets. Since no one of these organizations was in a position to accept all the material, it was necessary to establish a temporary storage location to facilitate drop-off and pick-up logistics. A warehouse located close to Air Canada volunteered space to house the material, allowing for convenient drop-off and reducing transportation costs.

The non-profit organizations to receive duvets have included: Brands for Canada, COSTI Immigrant Services, Dixon Hall Neighborhood Services, Eastminster United Church, Halton Women’s Place, Muslim Welfare Centre, Syrian Canadian Foundation and Toronto Wildlife Centre.

“Air Canada has donated approximately 10,000 duvets to community groups in the Greater Toronto Area. We are thrilled to be part of the initiative that helps to support the local community, and to be working towards more sustainable solutions,” said Chelsea Quirke, Manager of Environmental Management Waste Programs for Air Canada.

The Maple Leaf Foods and Air Canada case studies exemplify the opportunities that exist to divert unusual waste streams from landfill using a circular economy model. While the materials in these examples may not have traditional end-markets, research and support can identify community-based solutions for diverting them to a second use.

As Partners in Project Green looks forward to the next 10 years, we anticipate many more such examples, as the business community discovers the value of prioritizing industrial symbiosis and circular economy.

This article was originally published by Solid Waste and Recycling Magazine and written by Catherine Leighton, Waste Management Coordinator for Partners in Project Green at Toronto and Region Conservation Authority..