Big expansion for plastic recycling in B.C.

Nova Chemicals, a petrochemical company headquartered in Alberta, is planning a “multimillion-dollar” investment in a B.C. plastics recycler, with the aim of blending recycled plastics into the polyethylene it makes from natural gas.

Nova Chemicals operates petrochemical plants in Alberta, Ontario, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. It makes polyethylene — the most ubiquitous form of plastic — from ethane, a component of natural gas. Nova’s investment in Merlin Plastics will allow the B.C. company to expand and increase its production of recycled polyethylene.

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Neither Nova nor Merlin would say how much the investment is worth, except that it is in the multi-millions and will allow Merlin to add equipment in B.C. and increase production capacity by about 20%.

“We’re going create employment in terms of building the plant — adding additional capacity — and also finding new markets with Nova Chemicals,” said Tony Moucachen, Merlin’s founder and president.

The investment will allow Merlin to make recycled plastics that meet U.S. Food and Drug Administration standards for use in food packaging.

The recycled plastic pellets that Merlin produces will be blended with the “virgin” polyethylene that Nova makes for food product packaging. After the expansion, B.C. will be shipping out almost as much plastic as it consumes.

“We last year shipped about 35 million pounds of polyethylene to British Columbia,” said Nova Chemicals CEO Luis Sierra. “So when this ramps up with Tony, we’ll be getting back about 30 [million pounds]. So, nothing is more circular than that.”

Merlin Plastics is a made-in-B.C. green business success story. The company started 30 years ago as a two-person operation, thanks to a $270,000 loan from the B.C. Ministry of Environment. It now employs 300 with about 100 in B.C. Merlin also has plastic recycling plants in Alberta, Ontario, California and Oregon. In B.C., it operates a collection and sorting depot in New Westminster and a processing plant in Delta.

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