Two University of Guelph research collaborations for turning waste into new products and technologies will receive more than $6 million from the Ontario government.

Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph, made the announcement on campus today.

Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph speaking at funding announcement
Liz Sandals, MPP for Guelph


Funded by the Ontario Research Fund’s Research Excellence program, both initiatives will involve researchers from across U of G and Canada, as well as industrial partners.

photo of Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research) with his arms folded
Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research)

“This is an exceptional investment from the provincial government, and testament to the excellence and impact of these cutting-edge research projects,” said Malcolm Campbell, U of G’s vice-president (research). “Our researchers are converting industrial packaging and food waste into sustainable new products and water treatment technologies. Not only is this research innovative, but it also reduces landfill waste, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions, improving life for all Canadians.”

Sandals said: “Our government is very pleased to be making this substantial investment in this exciting project that will help improve the environment for all of us. Many of our citizens will be very happy to learn that recycled plastics will be diverted from our landfill and used in innovative ways, and that organic and food waste will be converted into valuable resources.” She added, “The University of Guelph is to be commended for being on the cutting edge of this important research and development.”

A team led by engineering professor Manju Misra will receive $3.8 million over five years to develop and commercialize sustainable plastic packaging from recycled and renewable plastics, as well as industrial and food waste.

Recycled plastics could be diverted from landfill and used in engineering biocomposites for rigid packaging, she said.

Prof. Manju Misra

“Bio-based materials are the wave of the future in sustainable packaging solutions.”

Misra said this research will help Ontario shift from the conventional, linear “take, use, discard” economic model to a circular model that reduces environmental impacts.

“Our innovative, sustainable packaging research is intended to reduce landfill burden, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Misra, who is cross-appointed to the Department of Plant Agriculture.

Her co-principal investigator is Prof. Amar Mohanty, a professor in the Department of Plant Agriculture and director of U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC). He holds the Premier’s Research Chair in Biomaterials and Transportation, and is cross-appointed to the School of Engineering.

Prof. Amar Mohanty holding up corn stalks
Prof. Amar Mohanty

“Sustainable packaging is essential to a circular economy and will improve Ontario’s economy, environment and employment,” said Mohanty.

The project will be based at the BDDC and will include collaborators from U of G – Profs. Evan Fraser, Department of Geography; Stefano Gregori, School of Engineering; and Loong-Tak Lim, Department of Food Science – and from McMaster University (Devashish Pujari) and Western University (Jun Yang).

It will be supported by $3.2 million from 15 industry partners, including Competitive Green Technologies, Maple Leaf Foods, Club Coffee, PepsiCo and Loblaw Cos. Ltd. Other partners include provincial and federal government agencies and not-for-profit organizations as well as international institutions.

Also involved are researchers at U of G’s Arrell Food Institute. Fraser, the institute’s director, will lead an initiative studying food packaging policies. He said this project “demonstrates how the University can adapt

Prof. Evan Fraser standing outside with people in the background
Prof. Evan Fraser

an interdisciplinary approach to some of the world’s most pressing food issues.”

In the second project, engineering professor Sheng Chang will receive nearly $2.3 million to convert organic and food waste into valuable resources.

His research team plans to develop cost-effective, disruptive anaerobic digestion (AD) technologies to recover resources from sewage sludge and food waste.

Current AD processes can recover usable methane gas and fertilizer from organic waste. Making these processes more efficient and cost-effective will be the goal for Chang’s team of engineers and biochemists from U of G, McMaster and the University of Waterloo.

headshot of Prof. Sheng Chang
Prof. Sheng Chang

They will use novel, genome sequence-based diagnostic methods.

“We look forward to establishing a global research hub for disruptive anaerobic digestion research,” said Chang. “We are confident that the technology and scientific knowledge to be developed through this program will help to grow the province’s waste-to-energy economy and to achieve a waste-free Ontario.”

The research will put Ontario at the forefront of advanced AD technology and research, and lead to global partnerships and markets, he added.

Industry partners include GE Power and Water: Water and Process Technologies and the Ontario Clean Water Agency.