NAIT begins major project to reduce global plastic waste

Staff and students to work with Inter Pipeline Ltd. to advance reuse and recycling

The largest applied research partnership in NAIT’s history will see the polytechnic partner with Inter Pipeline Ltd. in a 10-year, $10-million effort to reduce plastic waste.

The Calgary-based energy infrastructure company is expanding into the petrochemical business with the construction of its Heartland Petrochemical Complex, slated for completion in late 2021 in Strathcona County. The $3.5-billion complex will produce polypropylene pellets used to manufacture recyclable products including medical equipment and textiles.

The partnership, called Plastics Research in Action, will see NAIT researchers and students work with Inter Pipeline on projects to advance the reuse and recycling of plastic in Canada and around the world.

"The end game is preventing plastic waste."

“Ultimately, I think everyone agrees the end game is preventing plastic waste. That’s why I consider today’s announcement to be a completely necessary and crucial step,” said Chris Bayle, president and CEO of Inter Pipeline at the announcement of the partnership Tuesday in NAIT’s state-of-the-art Productivity and Innovation Centre

Almost 80% of all post-consumer plastics in Canada currently end up in landfills, he added. “This is the right project being done in the right place at the right time,” said Bayle of the partnership with NAIT. “We recognize fully that sustainability is a critical component of our business.”

“This agreement showcases how NAIT plays a vital role in helping industry to find solutions to the problems they’re facing,” said Dr. Glenn Feltham, NAIT’s president and CEO.

NAIT chosen for reputation and facilities

inter pipeline partners with NAIT on applied researchInter Pipeline chose NAIT as its partner because of the polytechnic’s expertise in applied research, its leading-edge facilities and its students, who will participate in the work, said Michelle Dawson, general manager, regulatory, land and stakeholder relations for Inter Pipeline. “All of those things were a huge attraction for us.”

Potential research projects will focus on opportunities to reuse plastics and remanufacture them into building products, or even new fuels, she added.

“We don’t want to write a paper on it; we’re looking for technology that we can implement and make real reductions,” Dawson said.

"We’re looking for technology that we can implement."

“We have decided to spend money on taking plastics out of the environment that exist today – plastics that are a problem right now. We intend to start [the project with NAIT] prior to our facility even going into service.”

Student researchers at NAIT are already working on “technology scans,” or surveys to determine the technologies currently available to reuse and remanufacture plastic and to manage plastics in waterways.

The funding is a federal investment made through the Strategic Innovation Fund.

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