Plastics Challenge - Recycling of Glass Fiber-Reinforced Plastic

From Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

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This challenge seeks novel, economically viable, and ecologically sustainable solutions for recycling or reusing glass fiber-reinforced plastic in a manner that is energy efficient and recovers as much material as possible (diverting from landfill).

Sponsoring Department: Transport Canada (TC)

Funding Mechanism: Grant

Opening date: October 18, 2018
Closing date: December 12, 2018, 14:00 Eastern Standard Time

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Challenge

Problem statement

Canada currently lacks feasible options for recycling and disposing of glass fiber-reinforced plastic (GFRP ala fiberglass) used in vessel hulls. The National Marine Manufacturers Association estimates there are over 6M pleasure craft in use in Canada. A large percentage of these vessels are constructed using fiberglass. A study on ship recycling capacity in Canada (Vard Marine Inc, 2016) estimates that over 43,000 vessels reach end-of-life each year. This includes those built with fiberglass. Most of these end up in a landfill, and since the number of vessels reaching end-of-life each year is expected to grow, the need for proper recycling and disposal is increasing.

Research shows that physical crushing & fiber recovery (such as solvolysis) are potential management practices for fiberglass. However, economical and environmentally sustainable methods for doing so have not been established. We are looking for novel solutions that address these challenges, either through open or closed loop recycling or through the reuse of the GFRP. Emphasis should be placed on developing techniques that are cost effective, energy efficient, and can divert these products from landfill.

Desired outcomes and considerations

Essential outcomes

A successful solution must present a novel approach that has the capability of adding market value to end-of-life GFRP vessels, potentially through:

  • Developing economically viable end-uses for GFRP;
  • Maximizing the quality of materials recovered; and
  • Identifying products that can incorporate vessel materials that currently do not have a viable market.

Competitive solutions must be:

  • Commercially viable at competitive market prices;
  • Ecologically and socially responsible;
  • Divert end products from landfill; and
  • Have a design that works in various climatic conditions.

Background and context

The National Research Council "Design for End of Life" Technical Report (2017) identifies these key barriers for recycling GFRP from vessels:

  1. Materials: Current materials are difficult to recycle
  2. Economic: Recycled fiber costs more than virgin materials
  3. Infrastructure: Recycling infrastructure is specialized, rare and costly
  4. Lack of End-Use: There are few viable uses for the products of recycling
  5. Incentive: Landfill is cheaper than recycling

The issue of recycling vessels has two key parts, improving vessel design for end-of-life and disposing/recycling of the existing fleet of GFRP vessels. Initial research identified alternative materials to improve a vessel's end-of-life design (e.g., biodegradable materials) however, more research and a thorough market analysis of potential alternative materials is still needed.

Due to the number of expected GFRP vessels reaching end-of-life each year, the priority must be to develop a solution to manage the existing GFRP vessel fleet. The materials used to produce GFRP make its recycling extremely energy intensive and uneconomical. The infrastructure is specialized, rare, and costly; and the lack of end-uses for its products means manufacturers will continue to choose cheaper, higher quality virgin materials.

Under the Oceans Protection Plan, the 5-year Abandoned Boats Program (ABP) at Transport Canada provided research grants to advance vessel recycling and environmentally responsible vessel design in Canada, targeting innovative designs, processes, and/or products that add market value to end-of-life vessels. The research will help maximize the recycle/salvage value of vessels at their end-of life, while encouraging the growth of green industry in Canada. A successful solution will complement the research supported under the ABP, by targeting specific barriers or challenges faced in recycling or reusing GFRP. Note that trends suggest the glass fiber market will be worth 18.75B USD by 2022, and that while this challenge targets GFRP vessel hulls, a solution here would benefit the automotive, industrial, construction, food, paper, and aerospace & defense industries in Canada and around the world that face similar difficulties.

In April 2018, during the International Maritime Organizations Marine Environmental Protection Committee 72, the ongoing problem of marine plastic pollution was recognized, and a new output to develop an action plan to address the issue of marine plastic litter from shipping was accepted.

This output is pursuant to the UN SDG 14 target to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds by 2025. As recognized in the G7 Communique, plastic waste and marine litter pose a serious threat to marine ecosystems, and healthy oceans and seas directly support the livelihoods, food security, and economic prosperity of billions of people. Throughout its G7 Presidency, Canada will advance global and domestic action on marine plastic litter and ocean preservation.

GFRP are made of resilient substances, incredibly durable, energy intensive and do not break down naturally; thereby making them a suitable building material but also incredibly difficult to reuse or recycle at end-of-life. Canada currently does not have sufficient capacity to properly handle fiberglass waste, and without a long-term disposal strategy, vessels will fill up landfills, or be abandoned in fields and waterways. As national efforts to remove these vessels from the water intensifies, identifying and developing a suitable method for recycling becomes an increasing priority.

Both mechanical recycling and fiber recycling/reclamation of GRFP come with their own inefficiencies and issues.

For mechanical recycling, it often results in an end product that is shipped to landfill when it cannot be used in the manufacturing of other products (e.g., concrete).  When used in other products, it is structurally weaker, thereby reducing options for reuse, and by extension, forcing its price points to be lower. This results in smaller returns on investment (unlike the reuse of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic).

Fiber recycling/reclamation involves separating out glass fibers by either thermal/heat or chemical means; the major sub-techniques being Pyrolysis, Fluidized Bed Processing, and Solvolysis. Each of these techniques requires high levels of heat and/or chemical solvents – both of which can result in detrimental effect to the environment and can pose high safety risks for employees. They are also energy intensive operations producing low value recyclables, and the recyclables created may be less structurally sound due to damage and material loss, once again making the process economically unviable, when compared to the use of virgin feedstocks.

One of the most economical and technologically promising choices, currently being used in Europe, is to use grounded GFRP to fuel cement kilns and then use the separated glass fibers as aggregate in the production of cement. The major drawback of this option is that the use of separated glass fibers as aggregates weakens the cement and therefore limits the product to non-structural uses, diminishing its economic value. In addition, the burning of the matrix to separate resin from glass fibers results in the release of harmful combustion by-products similar to those released in traditional incineration.

Maximum value and travel

Maximum grant value

Multiple grants could result from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $150,000.00 CAD for up to 6 months could be available for any Phase 1 grant resulting from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $1,000,000.00 CAD for up to 2 years could be available for any Phase 2 grant resulting from this Challenge. Only eligible businesses that received Phase 1 funding could be considered for Phase 2.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any grant for the total maximum funding value.

Travel

No travel is anticipated

Kick-off meeting

Teleconference/videoconference

Progress Review Meeting

Teleconference/videoconference

Final Review Meeting

Teleconference/videoconference

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Application guide

Application guide

Evaluation Criteria

Part 1: Mandatory and Minimum Pass Mark Criteria

Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria (Questions 1a and 2) and achieve the minimum pass mark for Question 3 in order to be deemed responsive and proceed to Part 2.

Mandatory and Minimum Pass Mark Criteria (Applicant/Bidder's proposal must address)
Question Evaluation Schema

1 a. Scope

Describe your proposed solution and how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed and clearly identify how your solution meets all of the EssentialOutcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice.

Mandatory - Pass/Fail

Pass
The Applicant/Bidder's proposed solution is clearly articulated, within the scope for the challenge and addresses all Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Challenge Notice.

Fail
There is little or no evidence that the proposed solution is likely to meet the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is articulated as out of scope for the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution does not address all Essential Outcomes listed in the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is poorly described and does not permit concrete analysis.

2.  Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)

  1. Indicate the current TRL of your proposed solution. (Drop Down Menu of the Application/Bid Submission Form)
  2. Describe the research and development activities that have taken place to bring the proposed solution to the stated TRL.

Mandatory - Pass/Fail

Pass: The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 4 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 4 (inclusive) including:

  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is at TRL 5 or higher.
  4. Insufficient/unclear/no justification explaining the R&D that took place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.

3. Innovation

Describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions.

Point Rated with Minimum Pass Mark

The minimum pass mark for this criteria is 4 points.

0 points/Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR

The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.

4 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches.

6 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches

8 points:

  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
  • The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces

Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria

Proposals that do not achieve the overall minimum score of at least 55 points out of a possible 110 points (50%) will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.

The overall minimum score is determined by adding the Applicant/Bidder's scores from the following questions together (1b, 3, 4-13).

Point-Rated Criteria (Applicant/Bidder's proposal to address)
Question Evaluation Schema

1b. Scope

Describe how your proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes and Considerations section in the Challenge Notice.  

If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Bidders/Applicants will receive 10 points

  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the solution will address any of the Additional Outcomes. 0 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address some (<50%) of the Additional Outcomes. 5 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address most (50% or more) of the Additional Outcomes. 8 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address all (100%) of the Additional Outcomes. 10 points

4. Phase 1 Science and Technology Risks

Identify potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1?

  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  • Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  • Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points

5. Benefits to Canada

Describe the benefits that could result from the successful development of your solution. Applicants/Bidders should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories:

  1. Innovation Benefits: Expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations. Assessment factors could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
  2. Economic Benefits: Forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Assessment factors could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.
  3. Public Benefits: Expected contribution to the broader public, including inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and environmental best practices. Assessment would consider the degree to which the Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Assessment factors could include: solution-related environmental benefits, investment in local communities and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
  1. Innovation Benefits
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points
  2. Economic Benefits
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points
  3. Public Benefits.
    • Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    • Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1.5 points
    • Benefit is significant and well justified. 3 points

6. Phase 1 Project Plan

Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

Include:

  • Project milestones;
  • project activities under each milestone;
  • time required to complete each milestone (e.g., days, weeks and/or months);
    • (Indicate if any milestones and activities will be completed concurrently)
  • total time required to complete the project; and
  • key success criteria.

Note: Phase 1 cannot exceed 6 months and TRL 4.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate a feasible project plan for Phase 1 and/or the project plan exceeds the maximum duration indicated in the Challenge Notice. 0 points
  2. Project plan for Phase 1 is conceivably feasible but not clearly demonstrated and/or includes gaps. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates a feasible project plan for Phase 1. 10 points

7. Phase 1 Project Risks

Identify potential project risks (eg. Human resources, financial, project management, etc) to the successful development of the proof of concept and how they will be mitigated?

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points

8. Phase 1 Implementation Team

Demonstrate how your project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.

Include the labour rates and level of effort for each member. A day is defined as 7.5 hours of work, exclusive of meal breaks. The labour rates and level of effort will be reviewed as part of the evaluation for Question 10.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but there are minor gaps in required management and/or technological skill sets and/or experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points

9. Inclusivity

If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution.

  • No description and/or concrete examples of actions provided that would be taken to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups. 0 points
  • A description and concrete examples of actions to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups provided. 3 points

10. Phase 1 Financial Proposal

Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

  • Insufficient information provided and/or information provided significantly lack credibility.  Does not demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  • Information is provided but some costs appear to be either over or under estimated for the Phase 1 project plan. 5 points
  • Information provided contains credible elements to clearly demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points

11. Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight

Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1.

  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate the Applicant/Bidder's ability to manage public funds in Phase 1. 0 points
  2. Information provided is vague and/or contains gaps. The Applicant/Bidder has some controls, tracking and/or oversight in place to manage the public funds in Phase 1. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has strong financial controls, tracking and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1. 10 points

12. Phase 2 Strategy

Describe a realistic strategy for the prototype development if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Responses should include:

  • anticipated barriers
  • key tasks
  • estimated cost
  • Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Applicant/Bidder has contemplated a realistic strategy for the Phase 2 prototype development. 0 points
  • Information provided demonstrates a conceivably realistic strategy for Phase 2 prototype development, however there are gaps and/or the strategy is vague. 5 points
  • Information provided demonstrates that the Applicant/Bidder has a clear and realistic strategy. 10 points

13. Commercialization Approach

Describe your overall commercialization approach for the proposed solution.

Responses should include:

  • Target markets (excluding Government of Canada)
  • Non-ISC funding sources
  • Transition to a commercially-ready product or service
  • Any other indicators of commercial potential and commercial feasibility
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 0 points
  2. Some information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential, however there are gaps in the commercialization approach. 5 points
  3. A realistic commercialization approach is provided that demonstrates that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 10 points

Questions and answers

All incoming questions regarding a specific challenge will be posted here with the corresponding response.

If you have a question about a challenge, please send it to ISED-ISDE@canada.ca.

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

A glossary is also available.

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