RECLAIM, RENEW, REGENERATE: ReGen Composites Dedicated to Diverting Waste from Landfills

“Canada alone has 2,400 active landfills and only about 30 per cent of our waste is recycled. We generate more than 31 million tonnes of solid waste annually, or an average of about 1.8 kilograms per person per day. We need multiple strategies to start managing waste more effectively, and we believe ReGen Composites is part of the solution.”

– Michelle Gowdar, COO & co-founder, ReGen Composites

 

By 2050, the greenhouse gas emissions from plastics alone could reach 56 gigatons — 10 to 13% of the entire remaining carbon budget.

“At the end of the day, what is growing in a way that is beyond our control is plastics,” said Michelle Gowdar, co-founder and COO, ReGen Composites, speaking at a June 10 climate change and business seminar held at World Trade Centre Winnipeg in conjunction with the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and IISD. “Our company is all about finding a way to make our difference to the environment through waste management.”

Gowdar says that when she and her business partner Prakash Gowdar, CEO of ReGen Composites, looked at existing waste management companies and processes, they discovered that it was all about collecting – collecting plastic waste to divert from landfills, and then finding someone to take the ‘all the stuff’ and do something with it.

“The bottom line is that if we only worry about making changes in agriculture, transportation, and energy to help us effectively reduce our emissions, we are not going to be able to make enough of a difference to the planet. All of our research showed us that there aren’t enough places for waste to go, and if we continue at the rate we’re going, we simply will not be able to meet our targets.”

In the three years since its founding, ReGen has become a forerunner in the evolution of redirecting plastics from landfills, including plastics #3 through 7, which are often difficult to recycle.

“We have developed an innovative, patented technology to create a composite material out of waste, which can then be used to make strong, durable, and environmentally sustainable products. We have expanded the traditional 3Rs of reduce, re-use, recycle to include three more: RECLAIM, RENEW, REGENERATE.”

To create its proprietary composite material, ReGen uses all plastics (numbers 1 through 7), as well as sourced wood and fibre from construction, demolition, agriculture, and municipal collection, and even other aggregate landfill material. They are a lean company; they don’t use any liquids (including water) in their production process; the resulting products are carbon sequestering (which means they don’t release emissions), and the company recycles all its own waste.

Since the composite is comprised of 100% diverted waste, the company doesn’t use any new materials, and they recently began assessing agricultural options like straw, wheat, and hemp as possible additions to their mixture.

ReGen’s first product was a renewable construction block, which is 30 per cent lighter than concrete, with high compressive strength and impact resistance, but which can also accept nails, screws, and other hardware.

“These construction blocks have superior thermal and acoustic insulation properties; they are mould, rot, and termite-resistant; and there is also a fire-resistant formula. Pretty cool stuff!”

Gowdar says that ReGen has been examining their impact on the environment as a major transporter.

“When you set up an organization — even an organization like ours that is dedicated to making a difference — you run into all the same challenges and issues as other companies with respect to transportation. We use trucks to transport our waste material from point A to B, but strategically, we have decided to look at setting up additional plants in large-sized centres to eliminate the need for us to move waste by truck to other locations. We just received a commitment from a licensed operator, and we are working with the City of Toronto to build our next plant, which will enable us to collect waste materials there, and we are currently in talks with Detroit, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.”

Gowdar says that another future goal is to measure and reduce their facilities’ energy consumption, because the manufacturing process is power-heavy.

“We are fortunate because in Manitoba, hydro-electric is still the cleanest form of electricity, so until we move to a new, larger plant in Winnipeg, we will continue to use hydro-electric power. And, as we expand in other locations, we will explore other more efficient forms of energy like solar.”

In June, the Government of Canada announced a ban on single-use plastics, including plastic bags, cutlery, straws, stir sticks, and more, by as early as 2021, a move that Gowdar says is bold and necessary, as long as the options to replace these exist and are better for the environment.

“Canada alone has 2,400 active landfills and only about 30 per cent of our waste is recycled. We generate more than 31 million tonnes of solid waste annually, or an average of about 1.8 kilograms per person per day. We need multiple strategies to start managing waste more effectively, and we believe ReGen Composites is part of the solution.”

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