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Recycler wants to double tire waste it microwaves in Sault Ste. Marie

Ellsin Environmental is currently allowed to cook 10 tonnes of tires a day on Yates Ave.
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Fined two years ago for violating Ontario's Environmental Protection Act, a company that recycles tires near Algoma Steel is applying to double the quantity of tire waste it microwaves there.

Ellsin Environmental Ltd. has served notice it wants to increase the daily maximum amount of tires it's allowed to thermally treat at 155 Yates Ave. from 10 tonnes a day to 20 tonnes a day.

If successful, Ellsin's application to the province will expedite the approval process for its production increase by exempting it from requirements of the Environmental Assessment Act.

Ellsin uses microwave radiation to cook tire waste, turning it into carbon black, scrap steel, syngas and oil. 

It's arguing that potential environmental effects from doubling its Sault production are similar to effects from its existing 10-tonnes-a-day facility, seeing there'll be no new infrastructure and the facility size will remain the same.

If the application is approved, Ellsin will still need amendments to its existing air and waste environmental compliance approvals.

In 2019, the company was convicted of two charges related to altering a waste management system without ministry approval and failing to submit reports within the required time frames.

It was fined $12,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $3,000.

"Ellsin’s Sault Ste. Marie Site is located in an industrialized area near Algoma Steel and its operation is already regulated by several permits and approvals, including environmental compliance approvals for air, noise, and waste," says a provincial notice of the new application.

"The ministry recognizes that Ellsin completed an assessment of environmental effects from the operation of a commercial facility treating 20 tonnes per day of tire waste in 2018 as part of an environmental screening process. Given this previous work, an exemption from additional environmental assessment requirements is being proposed."

Potential environmental effects listed in the notice are associated with:

  • contaminant emissions to the atmosphere from the thermal treatment of tire waste and production of black plastic concentrate, and associated equipment
  • noise emissions from the site

  • storage of tire waste received at the site

  • storage of recovered materials and residual waste generated from thermal treatment and associated processes

"While the thermal treatment of tires generates greenhouse gases, the proposal has the potential to offset greenhouse gas emissions associated with manufacturing of products by replacing virgin raw materials with outputs from the thermal treatment of the tire waste or through use as an alternative source of energy. Ellsin is also looking at the opportunity to generate electricity with the syngas produced from the thermal treatment process," the notice states.

The province is allowing 45 days for comments on the application, ending at 11:59 p.m. on May 3, 2021.

Ellsin is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Whitby, Ont.-based Environmental Waste International Inc. (EWS).

On Monday, EWS announced that an Ontario private company named Torreco Inc. has agreed to invest $7 million to convert Ellsin's Sault operation into a commercial-scale recycling plant. 

"EWS will retain a 30 per cent ownership interest in the plant and receive a royalty in perpetuity on the revenue generated from the sale of valuable commodities produced from its environmentally friendly tire recycling process," EWS said in a news release.

"The $7 million will be used to expand and modernize the plant utilizing EWS's latest technology. In exchange for the investment in Ellsin, Torreco will also be granted the right to build three additional waste tire facilities in Ontario over the next five years if it meets certain conditions."

"After investing $7 million, Torreco will own 70 per cent of Ellsin. The construction will require certain regulatory and legal approvals, and there can be no assurances that the entire $7 million will be invested," the news release stated.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story indicated that Ellsin Environmental was allowed to cook 10,000 tonnes of tires a day. It has since been corrected.