After a good feed of moose, the bones and fat are usually the bits left on your plate and ultimately end up in the garbage.
But for one man in the northern part of Newfoundland, there’s value in those normally discarded animal parts and he’s dedicated to making a profitable business out of it.
Ben Wiper is the CEO of 3F Waste Recovery, an innovative and modern manufacturing business focused on turning raw material waste streams from the fish, farm and forestry sectors into high-value, high-quality products.
Based in the tiny town of Main Brook on the Northern Peninsula — population, 236 — the company aims to become a global leader in environmental stewardship, full-product utilization and value-added manufacturing innovation.
The company — in its pre-commercialization, startup phase — has a mantra that nothing will go to waste as it diverts up to nine million pounds of waste from landfills and aggressively strives for a 98 per cent or higher recovery rate of all input materials.
“The founding principal and driving force behind the company is you can do good things and make a boatload of money doing it,” said Wiper, an Ontario native who worked in the Newfoundland and Labrador fish-processing sector.
“For too long, we’ve lived in this exploitative system that relies on exploiting resources, exploiting the environment, exploiting cheap labour. I’m done with that. I’m sick and tired of it.
“Everything can be done sustainably. The technology is there. There just has to be the will to do it.”
Wiper certainly has that.
He’s determined to prove a company can go green and also be successful.
Turning waste into profit
The 3F company has three main project steams — municipal composting, livestock carcasses and marine collagen.
Wiper received a grant from government’s Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB) to build a prototype mid-volume mechanical composter, which can compost about 12,500 kilograms of waste per year. The intent is to collect household composting materials, mix it with fish waste from local plants and produce fish compost.
The town of Main Brook has applied to MMSB composting industrial and residential waste in the community for 16 weeks to demonstrate its operation and feasibility. It’s already received funding for a community garden, in which the compost generated in the community will be used to grow food for residents.
“It’s a real full-circle operation,” said Wiper, who hopes to sell the composters to institutions like colleges and hospitals, as well as hockey arenas and other small municipalities.
Wiper’s plan for livestock carcasses is to render them down to produce tallow, glycerin and gelatin.
“The founding principal and driving force behind the company is you can do good things and make a boatload of money doing it.”
Focusing on moose and sheep, he’ll use the tallow to make moose soap, which will be targeted at the tourist market.
The gelatin will be dehydrated and crushed into a powder to make moose gravy, which he hopes local restaurants will buy.
Glycerin can be refined into a food-grade sweetener and is particularly useful for sweetening alcohol, he said. Wiper is in talks with a craft brewery and a craft distillery to create moose-infused beer and moose-infused rum.
The lower-quality glycerin, he said, could be used to make windshield washer fluid.
Wiper’s main project is the development of a marine collagen stream, in which a nutraceutical grade cod collagen is created to produce an easily dissolved collagen powder.
Wiper is working with a cosmetic and nutraceutical manufacturer in Nova Scotia, which has a customer base interested in the product.
Along with Marine Institute of Newfoundland and a groundfish processor in Bay Roberts, the group are working to develop a patent for highly soluble marine collagen — particularly aimed at nutraceutical beverages.
“The customers don’t want clumpy cold beverages,” Wiper said.
Wiper said they’re about four months away from launching the research and development project, which is expected to be a $1.5-million project involving the Marine Institute and three private enterprise partners.
“The waste benefits here are that currently there is no industrial-scale collagen method that is green,” said Wiper, who said collagen is usually abstracted from an acid solvent, a toxic byproduct.
“The current method is heavily polluting. What we’re doing is an all-natural extraction, called enzymatic hydrolysis. The key benefit of it is that at the end of the extraction process, you’re left with 100 per cent compostable byproduct.”
With public policy shifting, making it more expensive to dispose of waste, Wiper said being green is the only way new businesses will succeed and has to be at the core of any business plan.
“Waste is going to become a market in and of itself. Waste will start having a value,” said Wiper, who said the opportunities for businesses to transition to green are huge in this region, where natural resources are abundant and populations are smaller.
“That’s a sign that I’m successful. I know when the price of cod guts goes up, and when I have to start paying people for their moose bones and fat, I know I’m doing something right.”