Formica Canada repurposes its samples and residues to reduce waste

Formica Canada and the Université de Sherbrooke’s Biomass Technology Laboratory are transforming the residue of discarded laminate samples into green energy, to reduce its ecological footprint.

The project kicked off in 2021 with the Université de Sherbrooke’s Business Partnership Group. The Formica Canada team has been working with researchers at the Biomass Technology Laboratory who have identified two energy recovery methods for the samples and residues supplied by Formica Canada: combustion and gasification. To use either of these methods, samples and residues must first be reduced to a powder before being transformed into granules. Recycling the samples and residues will reduce the plant’s waste volume and natural gas consumption. 

“We’re very committed to this project which will allow us to not only recycle large quantities of laminate samples but our manufacturing residues as well, while making it possible for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and waste,” says Christelle Locat-Rainville, Marketing Manager at Formica Canada. 

The researchers will conduct a series of tests to calculate the proportions of the various residues that create quality pellets, as well as the optimal conditions for the combustion and gasification processes. They will then provide this data to the Formica Canada team for use in the operation of Formica’s plant in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. The project’s initial phase revealed promising physical and chemical properties, and research is now underway to optimize both processes. The project is expected to be completed in 2023.

“This is an exciting project from a research point of view and very instructive for our students who participate in the various tests and get the opportunity to understand the concrete impact of their research on industry,” says Bruna Rego de Vasconcelos, Ph.D., Project Lead, Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of Université de Sherbrooke’s Biomass Technology Laboratory. 

This project set researchers many challenges. First, most of the residues produced are fine dust particles, which makes purposing them more complex. This state led to the need to carry out numerous tests to find the proper ratio of the various types of residues to produce pellets with sufficient mechanical strength and the physical and chemical properties suitable for energy recovery. Moreover, many samples contain metal foil and are not directly recoverable. Therefore, the researchers have designed a pre-treatment that removes aluminum from these samples, which can then be processed like any other samples.