Michael Leopold, CEO for Convertus Group, sat down with Top 100 magazine for a Q&A on how Convertus closes the loop for a better future.
Q: Tells us a little bit about your background with Convertus Group.
A: I first joined the organization as the Canadian general manager in June of 2017, when we were still known as Renewi Canada. In 2019, we were acquired by Convent Capital, a long-term Dutch investor whose investment strategy focuses on organizations with a sustainable business model. Following the sale, we merged with two other businesses; Circular Waste British Columbia and Waste Treatment Technologies to become Convertus Group. Today, I am the proud CEO of the business and it has been quite an adventure to grow with the company!
Q: Tell us about Convertus Group.
A: Our tagline is “Closing the loop for a better future” and that is what all of our efforts aim to do. We empower communities to give resources new life, by turning them into reusable products such as biomethane gas or compost. Convertus Group’s focus is on long-term end-to-end organic waste solutions; we have contracts with some of North America’s largest municipalities and commercial businesses that have green bin programs. The organic food waste that is collected is sent to our treatment facilities, where we convert the waste into RNG, compost or fertilizer.
Convertus is a full-service provider for the treatment and recycling of organic waste. We boast modern operating facilities, dedicated professionals, and technological expertise to craft tailor-made plans. In fact, we are one of North America’s only companies able to design, build, operate and service organic waste processing facilities. Unlike our competitors, Convertus Group is a one-stop solution for the organic waste management process from beginning to end!
As a group, we process approximately 300,000 tons of organic waste and have built over 110 waste treatment facilities worldwide. We produce approximately 85,000 tons of compost and yield a 40,000 tons reduction of CO2 emissions per year! This is equivalent of taking 8,600 cars off the road or avoiding 4.5 million gallons of gasoline being consumed! We recycle and recover approximately 90% of the waste we receive, which translates to a significant positive impact on our environment!
Q: What makes you unique in this industry?
A: Convertus Group is unique in the biotech industry, largely because we utilize multiple technologies when treating organic waste. There are three technologies that can be used to process organic waste. While many of our competitors utilize only one technology, we know how to build and operate plants that utilize all three, so that we can provide robust solutions to our clients. Secondly, we are the only company in North America that has the ability to handle every aspect of organic waste management from the design and build to operation and servicing! Third, we are unique in our breadth of experience operating four facilities in Canada, two in Ontario, and two in British Columbia. Between these four facilities, we process 300k tons of organic waste a year. This year, we anticipate having our best year yet, by processing around 325-350 tons of organic waste!
Another differentiating feature of Convertus Group is our state-of-the-art odor abatement system. It starts with a powerful ventilation system that draws in air ensuring our facilities are fully enclosed under negative air pressure. All air is passed through an odor abatement system including an ammonia scrubber, biofilter and bio-scrubber, after which clean air and water vapor are evaporated from the stack. Because of how we treat odor, our facilities can be built anywhere! Most companies have to truck their waste to their facilities, which is counterproductive to environmental efforts around reducing carbon emissions. Our technology is advanced, so we can build facilities in the same municipalities creating the organic waste. We provide our clients a local solution, with the smallest carbon impact!
Q: What is Convertus Group’s vision?
A: Convertus Group aims to be the most advanced organic waste operator in North America. We want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and focus on partnerships that support local communities and green initiatives. Our goal is to hit a million tons of organics processing in North America per year, and we want to triple the size of our business in the next five years!
Q: Tell us about your work with universities and colleges.
A: Partnerships with universities and colleges that promote the environment are essential for the future. With talent shortages around the world, Convertus has taken the initiative to collaborate with local schools including University of British Columbia (“UBC”), Western University. Fanshawe College and Kwatlen Polytechnic to hire and train new graduates in their field of study (especially around green energy). I’m proud to say we’ve hired many of the students we’ve employed through co-op programs – six so far!
We’ve also partnered with UBC and Western University for research projects that focus on sustainability initiatives on topics such as biogas production and odor characterization.
Q: You’ve won a number of awards for your work. Can you share some of them with us?
A: Thank you, we are very proud of the recognition we’ve received! Our Surrey facility received Gold Certification under Canada’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Surrey was also the first waste sector infrastructure project in North America and third Canadian project to be awarded the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure’s Envision Platinum Award for Sustainability. We’ve won the Willis Award for Innovation, the Canadian Biogas Industry Award for Project of the Year for the Surrey biofuel facility, and the 2019 Circular Economy Award from the Surrey board of trade.
Q: How does your business give back to the community?
A. We have been delighted to work with a growing number of community groups and municipalities who share our commitment to creating a sustainable future. Since opening we’ve had the opportunity to participate in Doors Open in Surrey, an event where community members visit our facility to learn about the loop, participate in plant tours and play games. For International Compost Awareness Week, we sold compost for charity to support the under-13 soccer teams, and we’ve hosted seed-planting booths for municipalities and events. Each year, we participate in events for Earth Day and Waste Reduction Week, and we’ve held Neighborhood Tree Depots each year, where we’ve donated trees to encourage community members to improve sustainability by planting more trees in their garden! Most recently, we supported a First Nation community composting project, which will prevent 9 tons of organic waste from entering the landfill. If we can promote environmental consciousness in our communities, we’re in! We also support local community initiatives that focus on region specific initiatives that are important, such as donating to local food bank drives, Toys for Tots, Safety Weeks, etc.
Download the Top 100 Canadian Professionals magazine and check out Michael’s feature on page 24.