Canadian Company Masters the Depackaging Challenge to Achieve 500% Growth in Volume
Nestled at the foot of some of the most beautiful mountain peaks in North America lies the town of Chilliwack, British Columbia, a nice bike ride away from Vancouver, Canada. Unbeknownst to most of those who pass through here on their way into the nearby provincial parks, Chilliwack is home to one of the more cutting-edge recycling operations in all of Canada. Redux Nutrition, a division of West Coast Reduction, collects leftover packaged food waste from area bakeries and other manufacturers and transforms it into pet food and livestock feed products. They also convert spent cooking oil into biodiesel fuel.
Richard McCormack, operations manager for Redux, has been with the larger organization for more than 22 years. He recalls that the concept of Redux had been in existence for a while, but had not been fully realized until it was acquired by West Coast Reduction in 2016. Operations have expanded nearly five-fold since.
A Total Food Waste Operation
“The concept of recycling organics from prepackaged food, and collecting and recycling cooking oil has been around now for about 15 years. There were others around Canada doing this before us, but there was a large void in this market until Redux was started,” he shares.
“West Coast Reduction as a company recycles animal byproducts, but here at Redux, we deal only with dry bakery products,” Richard continues. “Anything that can be used or has been used at a bakery which can include some of the baked goods themselves, as well as the ingredients used to make them.”
The final end product that is created from these inputs is not dramatically complicated. The real effort is making sure that the finished product is consistent and meets the specifications of the animal feed producers that acquire it. And that’s easier said than done.
“Canadian feed regulations dictate that you cannot add anything to the source products, with the exception of water. So we focus on making sure that the blend is correct and the product has the proper amount of moisture content,” details Richard.
The Tiger Depackaging System
Unpackaged ingredients that are taken into Redux are blended directly into the finished product. Anything that arrives in packaging needs to be separated from the inorganic fractions before they can be used. Prior to March 2020, that task was performed manually as a large crew of people were required to break open bags and boxes and extract all the valuable organic materials. While that process was certainly effective, it was far from efficient and was preventing Redux from being able to scale and grow.
“It was clearly an unsustainable solution if we wanted to accept any products at scale,” says Richard. “We had been exploring a depackaging system for a couple of years, and finally decided it was time to invest in the Tiger.”
The Tiger depackaging system is integrated on a single, small-footprint chassis that feeds, separates, processes and extracts organics into a wet or dry output in a single pass. For Redux, the greatest benefit was the efficiency and output of the organic streams.
“Compared to other options we had been considering, the Tiger was able to generate in the first run what it would take other machines a couple of runs to achieve the same result,” Richard explains. “It really produces a much cleaner product with the least amount of post-process handling. For our operation to grow, we really need to get as much of the packaging out as efficiently as possible in the first run.”
For the type of material being processed, Richard says the Tiger is consistently performing at about 98 percent efficiency. A shaker screen is employed at the end of the run to extract out the final 1-2 percent of contaminants.
“The lab consistently verifies us at 98 percent without the screen, so that last one or two percent is what the shaker screen is for. Once the install was finished, we spent about three weeks running trials to dial in the proper balance to get the best extraction, but really we were pretty close on day one. I was incredibly pleased.”
Wet or Dry Discharge
Another benefit of the Tiger depackaging system is the precise control over water content. Wet inputs (milk, soda, ice cream) can be dewatered and discharged as both a wet and dry component. As Redux only accepts dry goods, the wet discharge feature is not something they need. But the ability to add water to the input stream occasionally is.
“Typically we don’t [add water],” admits Richard. “We’re trying to generate a dry product in the end, and that just adds to the cost of extraction. But occasionally we’ll add just enough to ensure proper package separation. Most of what we feed the Tiger comes out naturally at a 10-12 percent moisture content and that’s perfect for what we need.
Output from the Tiger is still kept separate from unpackaged material, and different material types are individually inventoried to allow Redux to blend the proper ratios of each so that tight specifications can be maintained. When orders are ready to be fulfilled, everything is added in ratio to a mixer to get the blend right and reduce product size, before conveying into a holding bin that feeds the final dryer.
Dramatic Expansion of Volume
With the Tiger running a full shift five days a week, the throughput of packaged organics at Redux has increased dramatically. Richard estimates that the total operational volume is easily up 500% over what it was when West Coast Reduction took over the operation in 2016.
“There are still more inputs out there to get,” Richard agrees. “We have a number of steady customers who rely on us to discard their scrap organics that are generated from all phases of production. And having the Tiger allows us to be that one-stop-shop for them.”
Richard also agrees that the marketplace is not close to being saturated with material either. As much as they can produce, the market would be ready to consume.
“Between the feed companies and the farms, and the quality of the outputs we’re generating, there is always demand for our finished goods. This is an exciting business to be in, and the big-picture benefits that we’re bringing to the community and the country make it very satisfying personally as well.”