Wax is everywhere. And we’re not talking about candles.
Industrial wax is a $10-billion-a-year business. Used in adhesives, shingles, rubber, paints, wood-board, even the roads we drive on, wax is an essential ingredient in products that touch all of us every day. (Candle wax, in case you’re wondering, makes up only about 20 per cent of annual North American sales.)
About 95 per cent of theses waxes are made from fossil fuels such as crude oil, coal and natural gas. Making wax, by definition, is a dirty business.
Unless you’re Greenmantra. The young Brantford, Ontario company has a better, ‘cleaner’ way of making industrial wax that taps into this market and has a substantial environmental upside.
“Production of these waxes has traditionally been done in what is considered a ‘dirty space,’” says Karlis Vasarais, Greenmantra’s vice-president of development. “But instead of refining oil, our proprietary process operates in a cleaner space by producing waxes out of plastics.”
Even better news, the plastic Greenmantra uses is recycled. Plus their process can use more kinds of plastics than traditional recycling methods. For example, most recycling uses things like yogurt tubs or detergent containers (known as high density polyethylene, or Type 2 plastics). But they can’t use plastic films, like food wrap and sandwich bags (or low density polyethylene, Type 4). Greenmantra’s process can. In Ontario, where only about 10 per cent of Type 4 plastics are recycled, Greenmantra’s process could have a big impact on how much of this trash reaches landfills. And what goes for Ontario, applies around the world.
Making Brantford a global headquarters
Getting access to that global marketplace started in a converted factory in Brantford, Ontario.
“Brantford had what we needed, an existing building with the right electrical services, a great location in southern Ontario and a skilled workforce,” says Vasarais. “It was the perfect location for us to establish a demonstration production facility.”
One early high-profile buyer has been the City of Vancouver, which now paves its roads with asphalt infused with Greenmantra wax. The high quality wax allows the asphalt to be poured at a lower temperature and, as a result, produces lower levels of harmful emissions. Good for the environment and especially good for the crews working with it.
And Vancouver is only one success story. For Greenmantra’s the biggest returns have been come from abroad.
“Ninety-five per cent of our revenues are from export sales,” says Vasarais, “primarily to U.S. manufacturers of products like shingles, coatings and rubber applications, for whom we are seen as a supplier with a competitive advantage.”
By next year, the company expects to grow from 20 to 50 employees, and increase wax revenues by $20 million within two years. And from the beginning Export Development Canada (EDC) has been a key partner in these efforts, with both lines of credit and then loan guarantees, freeing up cash at a time when clean tech industries are still struggling to find the financing they need.
“I like to think we could have closed all our financings on our own, but there’s no doubt it would be far more difficult,” says Vasarais. “EDC has been an enabler in exporting for us. They’ve been more than just a banker. They’ve been a business developer in the truest sense.”