Plastics Research in Action

About PRIA

A $10 million, ten-year research collaboration to advance the reuse and recycling of plastic in Canada and around the world

Almost 80% of all post-consumer plastics in Canada currently end up in landfills. Innovative thinking is critical to address this complex societal issue. As a polytechnic, NAIT is dedicated to helping industry develop practical, impactful solutions to address their specific needs and challenges. 

In the largest applied research partnership in NAIT’s history, the polytechnic has partnered with Heartland Polymers, Inter Pipeline's polypropylene brand, a world-scale energy infrastructure company developing North America’s first integrated propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene complex, to advance the reuse and recycling of plastic in Canada and beyond.

In partnership, NAIT and Heartland Polymers are developing solutions to ensure that waste plastics are reused as a valuable resource in the development of other products, while reducing their environmental impact.

PRIA is also creating practical opportunities for students and graduates to learn and use their skill set on impactful research.

Woman kneeling on a river bank pouring water into a glass jar

Microplastics project

Researchers in lab analyzing water samples.

Identifying and monitoring microplastics in the North Saskatchewan River

NAIT Applied Research Lead 
Jeremiah Bryksa

Partners and collaborators
Dow Canada

Project Details

Timeline

April 2020 to April 2025.

Project overview

This project aims to develop methods to quantify and identify microplastics in river freshwater, delivering a baseline quantitative assessment of the North Saskatchewan River. The research team has collected 216 freshwater samples, the largest collection in western Canada. Water chemistry analysis is conducted on the samples, the results of which will be used to explore the possible correlation between the different types of microplastics, their occurrence and locations. Based on standard practices, the team has developed a prototype, high throughput microplastics sampling system, which can filter 1500L of water for each sample, collecting microplastics down to 45µm.

Future activities

The team continue to collect and process samples and are analyzing the microplastics samples in collaboration with Dow Canada. The team has submitted a publication for review and aims to disseminate the methods developed and used for microplastics detection in this project.

Peer-reviewed publications from this project

High throughput application of ASTM D8332: Detailed prototype design and operating conditions for microplastic sampling of riverine systems
Jeremiah Bryksa, Patric McGlashan, Nadia Stelck, Jon Wong, Andrew Anderson-Serson, Matthew Hart, Trace Malcom, Bob Battle, Paolo Mussone. 2024
MethodsX


Plastic recycling projects

Post-consumer plastic for building material development

NAIT Applied Research Lead
Kelsey Deutsch

Partners and collaborators
[Re] Waste, Clark Builders

Project Details

Timeline

September 2022 to July 2024
 

Project overview
The goal of this project is to identify an optimum composition of recycled plastics materials to develop a first-of-its-kind plastic sheet prototype to be used as concrete formwork in the construction industry. Our team is using post-consumer plastics, high-density polyethylene (HDPE), low-density polyethylene (LDPE) and polypropylene (PP), as well as Type 7 mixed plastics. This product will be made exclusively with recycled plastics content and validated in the field.

The team have analyzed the sample concrete formwork produced by [Re] Waste including chemical, mechanical, environmental, and thermal laboratory testing. The team recently completed the laboratory trials for testing the concrete formwork in a controlled laboratory environment in coordination with Clark Builders and NAIT School of Skilled Trades

Future activities

Plans are now ongoing for testing the samples in a controlled field location in coordination with Clark Builders using a non-structural concrete component in the process.


Three small glass bottles filled with small clear/white plastic pellets. The bottles have labels with coded numbers

Designing for Circularity: Development of polypropylene blends using post-consumer recycled plastic

NAIT Applied Research Lead
Dr. Muhammad Arshad 

Partners and collaborators 
Alberta Innovates

Project Details

Timeline

March 2023 to March 2026

Project Overview

This project is researching the generation of polymer blends using Heartland Polymers’ polypropylene products and other polymer matrices sourced from external suppliers. This project aims to develop a platform to produce polymer blends using polypropylene from Heartland Polymers mixed with various commercially available post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics.

Integrating PCR plastics into industrial applications is integral in improving the plastics circular economy, however PCR plastics currently cannot be integrated into existing processes as they have already been polymerized and have variable characteristics compared to virgin plastics (e.g. composition, tensile strength). The project aims to integrate PCR plastics into the value-add chain by mixing them with virgin polypropylene.

Future Activities

The goal of this project is to demonstrate a made-in-Alberta pathway for the development, validation, and commercialization of high-value plastic resins that contain recycled materials.


Laying asphalt in a rural location

Testing recycled plastics in asphalt for Alberta climatic conditions

NAIT Applied Research Lead
Dr. Adetoyese Oyedun

Partners and collaborators
GreenMantra Technologies, McAsphalt Industries Limited, ‚ÄčStrathcona CountySturgeon County, Alexander First Nation, Alexander Asphalt & Concrete LLP, Burnco

Project Details

Timeline

June 2021 to October 2024.

Project overview

The primary goal of this project is to test, validate and demonstrate the blending of post-consumer plastics into asphalts for the Alberta marketplace. Technologies that convert plastic waste to wax products for blending into asphalt have shown favourable results when applied to roadways in warmer climates. This project tests these processes and is monitoring the results in Alberta’s climate conditions. A portfolio of bench-scale waxes produced from postconsumer plastics has been developed and tested with asphalt samples from Alberta, and a wax candidate prototype has been chosen for field trials of the modified asphalt. Four field trial sites were chosen: Heartland Polymers’ Heartland Petrochemical Complex, Alexander First Nations Community, Sturgeon County and Strathcona County. Across the four sites, 3.74 tonnes of post-consumer plastic waste were diverted from the landfill, equivalent to approximately 710,000 plastic bags or about 411,000 plastic water bottles.
 

Future activities

These sites will continue to be monitored to determine the quality and suitability of the modified asphalt for Alberta roadways and climate conditions, with results expected in Fall 2024.


Long boards of sample flooring arranged vertically.

Development of polypropylene flooring from recycled materials

NAIT Applied Research Lead
Kelsey Deutsch

Partners and collaborators
PolyCo

Project Details

Timeline

October 2021 to March 2024

Project overview

The majority of all new Luxury Flooring (LF) products available in the North American market are manufactured using polyvinyl chloride (PVC). The options available to efficiently recycle these materials at the end of their intended lifecycles are not available at the industrial scale. PolyCo is developing Canada’s first LF zero waste facility in Alberta, and aims to incorporate recycled, post-consumer polypropylene into their products to create resilient, circular, and waterproof PVC-free flooring using polypropylene from the Heartland Petrochemical Complex. This project aims to evaluate the impact of recycled polypropylene and other post-consumer plastics based on the key chemical and mechanical performance indicators of PolyCo’s products. The team has conducted thermal and mechanical analysis on all the sample tiles planned for this project.

Future activities

The project closes out soon and the team is wrapping up the key results of the studies which will specify the percentage of post-consumer plastic that can be incorporated into the tile prototypes without affecting the product properties.