Waste disposal

A method of treating and disposing of waste metalworking fluids has been developed by researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.


A novel, safe, cost-effective method of treating and disposing of waste metalworking fluids has been developed by researchers from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, part of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


The new treatment method is based on microbiological technology developed by Prof Ian Thompson and Dr Christopher van der Gast. The scientists, in collaboration with the NERC Commercialisation Team and Oxford-based investors H2O Venture Partners, identified a market need for the technology and have formed a spin-out company, Microbial Solutions.


The technology, known as Microcycle, is capable of breaking down whole waste metalworking fluids (MWFs) without the need for pre-treatment and to Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels well below the environmental consent limit. A chemical oxygen demand (COD) test is commonly used to indirectly measure the amount of organic compounds in water. Because of that, the waste can therefore be safely disposed of in local sewers.


Untreated waste MWFs carry very high levels of COD so cannot safely be disposed of in sewers. Current disposal methods of the waste generally require transportation to a centralised disposal and treatment facility.


‘New regulations over the past few years have inflated the costs involved in disposing of MWFs. Our technology provides an on-site solution that allows for their safe disposal without the need for costly transportation, which saves both money and time,’ Prof Thompson said.


The project benefited from NERC, BBSRC and DTI funding and early investment from H2O Venture Partners, which invests and builds businesses based on technology arising from the UK’s publicly-funded research base, and the Rainbow Seed Fund, a limited partnership of the leading UK Research Councils and organisations which together spend over £1bn per annum on research and development.