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Fergus, Ont. man recognized for innovative aerosol recycling machine

One of DeSpray Environmental's aerosol recycling machines. (Submitted) One of DeSpray Environmental's aerosol recycling machines. (Submitted)

A recycling machine developed in Elmira 25 years ago is being recognized on the international stage.

Mike MacKay of DeSpray Environmental, one of the equipment’s creators, has been named a “Recycling Hero” by the Global Recycling Foundation.

“It was a little overwhelming,” he said Thursday. “Redemption is maybe a good word from being 25 years of being the only voice and people telling me I’m crazy.”

The DeSpray Environmental machine takes large quantities of aerosol cans – everything from spray paint to insect repellant to deodorant – and crushes them into solid bricks of aluminum or steel. At the same time, it safely captures the containers’ contents, separating the gas propellants from the liquid waste, and compressing them into alternative fuels, which can then be burned to heat cement kilns.

“They need enormous amount of heat to make cement,” MacKay said. “It’s one of the biggest consumers of energy.”

While the technology was developed in Elmira, the machines are now being manufactured and engineered by a company in the Netherlands called Boessenkool.

There are currently around 15 of them in use across the world, including two in Canada. MacKay estimates since its creation in 1998, the technology has recycled more than 560 million aerosol cans – and that’s a big deal given what usually happens when someone tosses an aerosol can in the blue bin.

Mike MacKay of DeSpray Environmental estimates the company's machines have recycled more than 560 million aerosol cans since 1998. (Submitted)

Most people don’t realize it, but the average aerosol container is still around one-quarter full when it’s discarded – and less than five per cent are recycled properly, MacKay said.

“I call it the best kept secret,” he said. “Where do they go?”

If the cans do avoid the landfill, they’re either shredded or compressed, meaning all the gases escape into the atmosphere, he explained.

With 16 billion aerosol cans filled each year, the effect of not recycling their contents is like “a Deep Sea Horizon oil spill continuously,” MacKay said.

However, driven by environmental concerns, interest in aerosol recycling and the DeSpray Environmental equipment has exploded in the last several years, according to MacKay. The company is currently manufacturing six more machines.

“People are taking no prisoners with polluters now,” he said. Top Stories

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