Clamshell plastic packaging collected by the city's blue cart program is stored at a Calgary landfill. City of Calgary

A Calgary recycling firm says it could immediately help the city clear its backlog of plastic that’s cost taxpayers $500,000 to store.

The company, Eco-Growth, said it could ensure the clamshell containers — now stored in at least 100 semi-trailer units at a southeast landfill site — are turned into 3-D created products ranging from travel trailers and park benches to playground structures.

But city officials say they’re uncertain about the firm’s ability to process the plastic or handle the volume that now amounts to at least 1,600 tonnes. Clamshell packaging, commonly used as containers for baked goods and produce, is notoriously difficult to process, due to contamination from labelling and adhesives.

The city says a West Coast recycler has shown interest in processing the packaging, though there has been no agreement.

But Eco-Growth CEO Kim Caron said his company has no doubt about its ability to reduce the plastic through a process of dehydration and then have it used in 3-D printed products with the help of a Saskatoon-based partner.

“We already have the technology, we just have to do it . . . the city should be beating a path,” said Caron. “It’s absolutely bizarre.”

The company, he said, has long rendered plastic bottles into doormats and would have no problem shredding clamshell packaging.

“We could bring the technology to the city’s site and consume it there,” he said. “The clamshells are one of the best ones to use, they’re beautiful.”

The city and its recyclables sorting partner, Cascades Recovery, could reduce processing costs by not having to transport the material out of the city for recycling, said Smith.

No one at the city would speak to the issue but in an emailed statement, spokeswoman Leah Kemppainen said they’ve been in contact with Eco-Growth repeatedly over the years.

“Eco-Growth recently began a small-scale project where they prepare plastics for further processing and ship the material to a 3-D printer,” said Kemppainen of the city’s waste and recycling division.

“The scale of the project, the feasibility, the ability to handle the types and amounts of plastic material the city has, have yet to be determined.”

She said the city has asked Eco-Growth to keep in touch “as (the company) continues to explore this innovation.”

A city official has said renting trailers to store the clamshell plastics cost $300,000 last year, and the volume is increasing by two to three trailer units each month.

Caron said his outfit could process 700 kilograms a day “and could at least get started in reducing their stockpile, we could certainly start shredding and dehydrating in a month or two.”

At least one other Alberta municipality, Caron added, is prepared to partner with Eco-Growth on its 3-D printing-recycling program.

In late 2017, China began refusing to accept many recyclables used by its industries, creating a glut in North America that resulted in a dramatic devaluing of the material.

The city says it now receives 60 per cent less revenue for the material than it did before late 2017.

At one point, the city was stuck with 5,000 tonnes of recyclables but has since found processors to take it, with the exception of the clamshell packaging that makes up one to two per cent of all recyclable waste.

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