‘Around 15 billion aerosol cans are available for recycling this year,’ Mike MacKay of Despray told Recycling International at the Pollutec expo in Lyon. ‘Many billions will flood the market next year, and the year after that… but the industry still needs a fullproof recycling solution to handle all these cans,’ he urged. ‘I think our Despray system can make a difference.’
It’s common practice to place a deposit on beer and soup cans. This hasn’t yet been considered for aersol cans, laments Mike MacKay at the French convention. If this were to change, collecting aerosol cans for recycling would be ‘very easy’.
Top 20 innovations
The entrepreneur from Canada is proud to announce his company Despray has been named one of the top 20 innovators exhibiting at the event. Together with his Dutch business partner Eelco Osse, he came up with a system that completely empties and decontaminates discarded aerosol cans. It doesn’t matter if they are full, or almost empty, small medical inhalers or big 1 litre cans.
‘Ideal feedstock for smelters’
‘Our automatic system can process 3500 aerosols per hour, without releasing any hazardous materials into the atmosphere,’ MacKay notes. ‘The system effectively separates and removes the propellant and liquid, which are then stored into individual containment tanks. The metal containers are compacted into a dry briquette with 99% of fluid removed so they are ideal feedstock for smelters,’ he adds.
The salvaged gases are preserved for recycling or incineration. ‘We provide a 100% closed loop solution that is works for aerosols as well as inks, varnish, oil filters and solvents. Our patented technology is explosion-proof,’ MacKay points out.
Old practices ‘unacceptable’
Although there are some aerosol recycling systems on the market, the entrepreneur stresses that none of these methods allow for the capture of the liquid contents and the gas propellants. In fact, many companies currently handling aerosol cans either puncturing the cans to let the contents out, or they simply hold the spray nozzle down until it is pretty much empty.
‘Doing so lets toxins escape into the atmosphere, and that is unacceptable,’ MacKay states. ‘Also, these practices pose a huge safety risk as the cans aren’t actually empty.’ He demonstrates this by showing me a video of him holding a lighter next to a depleted can and creating a pretty impressive 5-second fire blast. ‘You can imagine the consequences of such an incident happing at a busy recycling yard,’ MacKay cautions.
Major growth ahead
The global aerosol cans market was worth US$ 61.8 billion last year and will reach almost US$75 billion by 2023, reveals new data by Mordor Intelligence. More than 5.5 billion aerosols were produced worldwide last year.
North America’s sector alone contributed US$ 14 billion to the market in 2017, which is believed to grow to US$ 16.8 in the next five years. In terms of units produced, Europe has the biggest market share. Major manufacturing nations like Germany and the UK have boosted the total, which stood at 5693 million aerosols put on the market across Europe in 2017.
Also, aerosols production is likely to reach new heights due to big-scale facilities, such as the 100 million-a-year site Bharat Containers owns in India.
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