Environmental technology

Sustrum – making sustainable structural materials from waste

Newrail (Newcastle University), Bliby Plastics, CPP Industrial Packaging, EIA, Joltech, KCR Composite Mouldings, MKM Leisure

Each year, millions of tonnes of waste – some of it potentially useful- end up in UK landfill sites.

In an effort to divert some of this material away from landfill and provide a sustainable alternative to virgin commodities the TSB-funded SUSTRUM initiative was established to look at whether a variety of waste materials could be re-engineered into structurally useful products.

A pallet manufactured from polymer waste
A pallet manufactured from polymer waste

As the project was focused on the use of non-standard material feedstocks, material and process innovation was very much at its heart and the initiative’s own formal record of the specific innovations developed within SUSTRUM contained 29 separate entries by the end of the project.
Examples of the diverse range of innovations developed within the project include a novel means of manufacturing cellular materials, an alternative concept for the assembly of transportable buildings, a continuous process for the mixing and binding of shredded waste material to produce consolidated components, and a wide range of novel material formulations based on waste material feedstocks.

Of particular note is the project’s work with carpet waste. Each year, around 500,000 tonnes of carpet waste is buried in UK landfills, but by using waste carpet to build newt fence panels, the group believes that it could divert 1.5 million m2 of waste carpet from landfill each year.

Project Topless – flexible, low energy, light emitting polymers

Thorn Lighting, Cambridge Display Technology, Durham University

Artificial lighting consumes almost 20 per cent of all electrical power generated and is responsible for an estimated 2,000 million tonnes of annual CO2 emissions. Lighting technology developed by a consortium headed up by UK lighting firm Thorn Lighting could help dent these statistics.

Long viewed as a promising low-energy alternative to the incumbent technology polymer light-emitting structures-thin films of material that emit bright white light under the application of very low DC voltages (4VDC)-have been held back by concerns over the quality of the light they produce and manufacturing difficulties.