When waste byproducts are recycled and reused, it is always good for the environment. That means potato product producers in Portage la Prairie are doing some good things for the environment.
Simplot Canada Ltd. in Portage la Prairie goes through about 600 million pounds of potatoes in a year. However, what some people may not know is the cutting of potatoes produces a lot of waste starch — about 4 million pounds a year, according to Simplot’s unit director in Portage, Chris Tompkins.
"Just in the cutting of french fries, you generate potato starch, so you need to find an outlet for it. Basically, we just looked for people in the area that were in the market for buying it, and Manitoba Starch Products is who we sell it to,"explained Tompkins. "It’s a revenue stream that we have been able to generate from something that happens anyway. If we didn’t sell the starch, it would go into our waste treatment centre. Not only do we generate revenue, it also saves us money in waste treatment costs."
In this particular case, being environmentally friendly is actually making Simplot money. Although, the starch is used by Manitoba Starch Products for a variety of applications, one of the notably environmentally friendly applications has to do with a company called Solanyl Biopolymers Inc., based in Carberry, which started in 2005.
This company buys the potato starch from Manitoba Starch Products to produce biodegradable plastics that are far more environmentally friendly than their petroleum-based counterparts.
"Our company specializes in the manufacturing of biodegradable resin for injection molding and the base material of this resin is the starch byproduct of the french-fry and potato processing industry,"explained Ferdi Van Dongen, president of Solanyl Biopolymers Inc. "We use recovered starch from companies like Simplot that use a high volume of potatoes."
Traditionally, potato starch is used for industrial applications, such as feed for livestock, and really doesn’t sell for much. However, when it is used to make solanyl biopolymers, it becomes much more valuable, and it is Van Dongen’s hope these kinds of biodegradable plastics will catch on in Manitoba.