The Alberta Plastics Data Project was launched in January of 2021 to collect data on the generation of plastics within Alberta’s Industrial Heartland (AIH), an area northeast of Edmonton, consisting of five partnering municipalities. This project was one of 14 selected from across Canada to receive funding under the Zero Plastic Waste Initiative by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
Partners who have made the project possible include the Recycling Council of Alberta (RCA), Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association (AIHA), the Northeast Capital Industrial Association (NCIA), Dow, Inter Pipeline and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). These partners provided guidance on the project and in-kind or financial support. The lead contractor hired to complete the study was Eunomia Research & Consulting.
The primary objective of this study was to:
- Quantify the amounts of different post-use plastics generated by resin.
- Indicate the characteristics of the post-use plastics found in the waste audits.
- Record the resin and source of plastics from different operations (e.g. administrative vs operations).
- Identify some of the barriers to recycling and the current end fate of materials; and
- Develop an audit guide and templates that can be used for future audits.
- Describe the quality of the post-use plastic generated (including e.g. contamination, non-plastics material).
This project gathered data from companies within the AIH to establish:
- The types of post-use plastic generated in the AIH.
- The characteristics of the post use plastic disposed of in the AIH.
- The quality of the post use plastic disposed of in the AIH.
- The quantity of plastic disposed of in the AIH.
The project produced a final report on the results of the audit.
High level results:
- The annual tonnage of plastics disposed of from 25 companies across the AIH in 2021 was estimated to be approximately 390 tonnes, with garbage bags being the most prevalent plastic disposed. In addition to high density polyethylene (HDPE) and low density polyethylene film, other materials generated included laminated film and shrink wrap and HDPE containers.
- Post-use plastic is predominately generated from activities related to the industrial operations and administration departments within the companies studied. Many of the sites had materials delivered in returnable plastic packaging, which did not end up in the disposal stream. These returnable plastic packaging containers can be sent back to the supplier, or sent directly to a recycler, as they are a clean stream of recyclable plastics.
- The volume of post-use plastic disposed from the 25 companies in this study is small compared to the total estimate of plastic disposed from the Industrial and Commercial (ICI) sector province wide. The ICI sector disposes of an estimated 313,000 tonnes of plastic annually. The post-use plastic disposed in the Heartland is therefore 0.12% of this total. Various factors impacted the study, including challenges with access to sites during the pandemic that eliminated the ability to audit a hospital and reduced access to some industrial sites. https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2020/eccc/en14/En14-405-2020-eng.pdf
The project produced a plastic audit guide that can be used by other organizations and industrial sites to assess their plastic generation.