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NV companies vie for green tech prize

Two North Shore research companies have made the latest round of a province-wide innovation contest that aims to promote green technologies.

North Vancouver-based Polymer Research Technologies and Axine Water of West Vancouver are among 25 businesses from across B.C. to make it into third round of the B.C. Innovations Council’s New Ventures Competition, an annual contest that awards cash prizes for the province’s most promising new environmental technologies.

Polymer Research was selected for a process for recycling polyurethane, a toxic plastic found in everything from mattresses to cars that currently ends up in landfills.

CEO Kambiz Taheri said the technique will divert a large amount of material from dumps and address shortages of the petroleum-derived plastic.

With an industry valued at $80 billion a year, he said there’s plenty of potential. He has plans for three to four plants in the next five years.

“What we’ve done is convert this waste being landfilled into a commodity that’s being used by an industry,” said Taheri, adding they are “very close” to commercialization.

West Vancouver’s Axine was nominated for a non-chemical wastewater treatment technology that avoids creating solid waste while at the same time producing hydrogen that can be used in fuel cells.

Axine CEO Colleen Legzdins said she came up with the idea after setting out to solve a problem of wastewater treatment that tended to either require large amounts of energy, chemicals or create a toxic sludge that caused problems for landfills.

“All the stuff is leaching out into groundwater and lakes and rivers, it kills the fish,” she said. “Landfills were not taking this stuff. Nobody wants industrial sludge.”

The final round will be decided Aug. 31, when 10 companies will be selected to pitch their idea to a panel of experts.

Both North Shore companies are vying for a top prize of $130,000 and several other awards adding up to about $360,000.

They said any prize money would go right back into their research, and could help them speed up development.