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NAIT granted $10M to launch plastic recycling research program

Plastic bottles in recycling bin.
Plastic bottles in recycling bin. The Canadian Press Images-Mario Beauregard

A major funding boost to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology will now allow the school to expand its plastic waste reduction research team.

In an announcement Tuesday, Inter Pipeline Ltd. said that it would be committing $10 million in a 10-year agreement with the school for a Plastics Research in Action partnership.

“Today in Canada, nearly 80 per cent of all post-consumer plastics end up in landfills,” Christian Bayle, president and CEO of Inter Pipeline, said in a news release Tuesday.

“Innovative thinking is critical to addressing this complex societal issue.”

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NAIT research and innovation consultant Debbie Pietrusik, who is also serving as the interim project manager, said that the school was chosen for the project because of its 10-year history in applied research and industry partnerships. She says the team will aim to find new opportunities in the province to extend plastic’s lifetime with new uses.

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“It’s taking those post-consumer products, plastic products that are going to the landfills… and repurposing them or converting them to another type of product that we can use again,” Pietrusik said.

“Maybe converting that plastic into things like transportation uses, asphalt or roadways… cement or insulation,” Pietrusik said.

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Currently the school has a small team of between six and eight people working on the research, but Pietrusik said the grant — which is the largest applied research partnership in NAIT’s history — will allow it to expand. Student researchers will also be involved.

“If we take a look at the plastic waste in Alberta, how much of this waste is available for conversion?” Pietrusik said. “What are the technologies out that that are commercially available?”

A portion of the applied research funding will also be dedicated to improving sustainable practices at Inter Pipeline’s Heartland Petrochemical Complex in Fort Saskatchewan.

READ MORE: Federal government pledges $49M for $3.5B plastics project in Alberta

The company said the project was launched after Inter Pipeline was the recipient of a federal investment made through the Strategic Innovation Fund.

Easy ways to cut your family’s plastic waste
Easy ways to cut your family’s plastic waste