Today, many entrepreneurs are focusing on the challenge of circularity and how to recover value to divert waste and meet new demands. We spoke with Hui Huang Hoe, Founder and Inventor, elerGreen, to learn more about the company’s unique approach to recovering value from waste and generating renewable energy.
Describe your core offering(s). How is your organization contributing to a cleaner, greener future?
elerGreen is focused on recovering valuable polymers, metals, and feedstocks from chemical wastes and renewable electricity, in an economic and eco-friendly way. elerGreen’s key differentiator lies with the unique reactor design of electrode in relative motion against stationary blades to continuously remove solid products. Our design, powered by renewable electricity, contributes to climate action, and facilitates tailings recovery, waste valorization, and compostable polymer production. The mining industry benefits when toxic heavy metal ions in their tailings are converted into solid metals with resaleable values. Waste valorization includes conversion of toxic ethylene glycol in industrial wastes into harmless polyethylene glycol of various uses. The unique moving electrode also facilitates the more efficient and eco-friendlier electrochemical pathway of non-conductive polymer synthesis, such as polyglycolic acid for compostable food packaging. The solution can also be used to retrofit existing facilities, and scaled-up using modular assembly. What we do at elerGreen can be summed up as “Electrification Done Green.”
Other than coffee, what gets you out of bed in the morning? How does this work connect with your core beliefs and values?
How did you know about my craving for coffee? I am excited for the work since it is what I am good at, what I love to do, and it contributes to society. My background is chemical engineering, especially green electrochemistry. As part of my track records, the University of Toronto filed a patent on my prior research “Electrochemical Carbon Dioxide Utilization.” Interestingly, elerGreen’s moving conveyor belt electrode reactor was conceived by a Eureka moment while exercising on a treadmill. The answer was right under my feet! As demonstrated by elerGreen, I enjoy cleantech entrepreneurship. It is really satisfying to generate creative ideas, execute them, and see the results. Cleantech entrepreneurship is stressful, though, and it would be difficult to persevere without passion. Our work connects our core belief of reconciling profitability with sustainability, and we contribute to society with cleantech and expertise. Beyond cleantech, elerGreen contributes pro bono to the community, including fostering entrepreneurship education.
Tell us about a recent win (or wins) or your company.
Good news, quite a handful, including being invited by OCTIA for this interview! Domestically, elerGreen is nominated in CANIE Award as Climate-Related Product of the Year. Internationally, elerGreen becomes a PERUMIN Competition Finalist for meeting various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as defined by the United Nations. Thanks to these recognitions, there are more and more customers down the line, where elerGreen is striving to meet further demands. We are presently working to refine our reactor design and increase capacity to engage more customers. Refining the reactor for efficiency will also help us produce a showcase model to engage current and prospective customers. Lastly, I feel honoured to have won an OCTIA pitch competition, and I would like to express my gratitude to OCTIA for the nomination for SDTC programs that could help elerGreen adapt the reactor for mass production.
What’s next for your organization?
We’ve had lots of interest in partnerships, and we are busy setting up a facility with Parkdale Centre for Innovation in Toronto and refining our reactor designs. We are also adapting the reactor model for mass production to better meet the rising demands. The immediate goals focus on completing and selling the reactor for metal production. With substantial development and the patent towards granting, we are gaining further momentum on collaboration and execution, including technical and logistics support to build, lab-test, and field-test the elerGreen reactor. One of our next goals is to establish an elerGreen production plant at larger scale to sell the end products of polymers, metals, and chemicals. Preparation is ongoing, including optimization, refining business plans, and advanced market study. We are also researching the more complex variants and industrial operations to serve more sectors. To leverage all these projected benefits, elerGreen has also established various partnerships, including with the Circular Economy Leaders Canada (CELC). We hope to bring these connections to our work with OCTIA.
Finally, what’s on your team’s wish list for Ontario’s cleantech sector?
We would like to see a reformed approach to how to access funding, and, generally, a shift in mindset when it comes to how society supports Ontario’s cleantech sector. The cleantech industry is research-intensive with a generally long life cycle, thus it can be difficult to raise investment. Meanwhile, many cleantech grants require matching private contributions. It seems strange that cleantech entrepreneurs may have to risk their homes and savings in order to do societal good. Eliminating the cash contribution and allocating more remuneration to the entrepreneur, similar to funding academic research, is worth considering.
Furthermore, when we talk about a shift in societal mindset, this extends to the general public. Many people say that cleantech is great, but they take contradictory actions, from family and friends suggesting that entrepreneurs take on better paying ‘decent’ jobs, to people that question taking eco-friendly initiatives in their daily lives. Fortunately, we are seeing gradual changes here – people are generally more aware of the importance of moving forward, fast, to develop and implement cleantech solutions.
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