Company with links to Fergus wins ‘Recycling Hero’ award

Despray Environmental makes equipment to recycle aerosol cans

FERGUS – Fergus is soon to become headquarters for the World Aerosol Recycling Association and will become central to a global campaign to recycle aerosol cans.

Despray Environmental picked up a Recycling Heroes award from the Global Recycling Foundation on March 18 – Global Recycling Day – and managing director of technical sales and marketing Mike MacKay, who lives in Fergus, is anxious to use the fanfare to advance the initiative.

Despray Environmental is an international company based in the Netherlands. MacKay said it is the only company that manufactures the equipment to recycle aerosol cans.

That’s hair spray, deodorant, spray paint – and MacKay says aerosol cans are a huge environmental concern that are hazardous and can be lethal.

“It’s a huge problem,” he said in a phone interview from his Fergus office. “Sixteen billion cans are filled every year and of those, less than 2% are recycled.

“So 98% still have greenhouse gases inside and are hazardous waste but they’re sitting in landfill sites.

“Nobody knows about this. It’s the best-kept secret.”

Despray has developed technology to capture the gas left in the cans and recycle the metal so 100% of an aerosol can is recycled.

“It’s not cheap and companies don’t want to see this,” he acknowledged.

“We’re the only company in the world addressing this. That’s why we won. We’re pushing the narrative.”

Recycling is one way to address climate change and Despray Environmental was one of 10 projects that received a Recycling Hero award from the Global Recycling Foundation, along with five Young Green Ambassadors.

Other winners include the Zero Plastic Straw Community in Nigeria, Arena Recycling Tanzania and Green Women Compost Production Company in India.

Ranjit Baxi, founding president of the Global Recycling Foundation, said, “This year’s list of Recycling Heroes should be a cause for celebration. 

“Not only does it demonstrate the enthusiasm and ingenuity of our winners, but the special category of Young Green Ambassadors introduced to acknowledge the initiatives of many schools, demonstrates that our young people today, who are the leaders of tomorrow, are showcasing the way forward and recognizing the importance of recycling to protect our fragile planet.”

MacKay said it will require a mindset change in businesses, in government, and in general practice when it comes to recycling aerosol cans, adding that if consumers had to pay a deposit upon purchase, they’d be more inclined to divert the cans from the landfill stream to get their deposit back.

MacKay said about 25% of a product remains in the can even though you think it’s empty and about 350 million cans are sold in Canada annually.

“These are explosive and are a liability for a company,” MacKay said.

“And now we expect climate responsibility from companies too. There’s a lot of potential in aerosol can recycling and the movement starts here in Fergus.”

MacKay is preparing to launch the World Aerosol Recycling Association in the near future.