Every year, thousands of automotive tires are shipped from Thunder Bay to southern Ontario for recycling.
Mitch Ouimette, the Sudbury-based CEO of Terreco Inc., hopes to build a plant to process them in Thunder Bay and sell the byproducts.
The tires would be shredded and put into an industrial microwave to break them down into steel, synthetic gas, crude oil and – most importantly – carbon black.
Carbon black comes out in the form of beads that can be used in a variety of products including black plastic.
"Without adding anything to the process, we can actually return the oil and the carbon black to the tire industry and let them produce new tires. You also find carbon black in ink toners, and so on," Ouimette said.
Ouimette's company is to get 70 per cent ownership in the operation in return for a $10 million investment to commercialize the plant.
He said conflicting legislation regarding waste processing has held the Sault enterprise back for the past five years, but he believes the province is now on board.
"It's just brilliant technology....We're taking it from the proof-of-concept demonstration phase right up to full commercial viability at 20 metric tonnes per day," Ouimette said.
The target date for production is February 2022.
As work continues on the Sault plant, Ouimette is looking farther down the road to the establishment of a plant in Thunder Bay, a third facility in North Bay, and future expansion to southern Ontario.
Ouimette called Environmental Waste's microwaving process "groundbreaking," explaining that existing recycling practices only extend the life of tires for uses such as mats and dock bumpers.
He said the synthetic gas will be used in the plant to generate electricity, but there's a market for all the other byproducts.
The estimated cost of a future lant in Thunder Bay is $15 million.
Ouimette said it would create up to 20 jobs.
"A large supply of used tires from Thunder Bay are now being boxed up and shipped to Brantford. It makes no logical sense to do that," he said, adding that a local facility would save shipping costs and the CO2 emissions that result from transporting them.
Ideally, he said, construction could start next year, but regulatory hurdles remain.
"It's all in the hands of the environment ministry. I hate to put it that way, but the ministry is truly where the buck stops. We have a process to go through with them, so we're going to look at the 2022 construction season, which is the soonest that we can get there."
According to Ouimette, a 20 metric tonne plant will produce 99 metric tonnes of CO2 annually, or roughly the same as two average households.
"We are knee-deep in evaluating plans to offset those emissions, but this plant is about as green as they come when it comes to processing waste," he declared.