New uses for industrial and domestic waste

A team at Teesside University has received £1.76m to carry out work to find innovative new uses for industrial and domestic waste in North East England.

The money has been awarded to the Industrial Symbiosis team within the university’s Clean Environment Management Centre (CLEMANCE).

Industrial symbiosis is the practice of recycling waste for use as raw materials.

With the UK burying more than 18.8 million tonnes of household waste – two million tonnes more than any other European Union member – this project aims to help British tax payers avoid fines of up to £180m a year if the country fails to meet EU targets to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill sites by 2020.

The funding for the research includes £1m over four years from International Synergies, which helps companies identify new uses for waste produced as part of their industrial processes. Many waste products can be used as raw materials, saving money and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

An additional £621,000 is from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Competitiveness programme 2007-13 for North East England, which is managed by One North East on behalf of the European Commission, national government and regional partners.

A final £143,000 is being provided by the Institute for Local Governance, which helps the five North East universities work with public organisations such as councils and emergency services to reduce waste.

These funds will be used for investigating new uses for domestic waste gathered during kerbside collections, including plastics. The work is supported by Hartlepool and Gateshead councils.

CLEMANCE’s ultimate goal will be to reduce carbon dioxide by over 250,000 tonnes and prevent 250,000 tonnes of waste going to landfill, making environmental savings as well as improving business profitability.

The centre will help provide assistance to 40 enterprises each year, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

North East Industrial Symbiosis project manager Christine Parry, who is based at CLEMANCE, said a growing number of materials are already banned from landfill, such as electrical items, tyres, liquids and gypsum with more due to be added. This will increase the pressure on companies to find alternative uses for their waste.

‘We need to need to increase the capacity and will of SMEs and their workforces to improve business performance by recognising that waste is a useful raw material and a resource to be utilised,’ she said. ‘There are numerous opportunities for collaborative networking, sharing resources and access to technical information, research and support for virgin material savings between companies. The funding we have received will help us with our work in that area.’

CLEMANCE senior practitioner Kirk Bridgewood said: ‘The study was prompted by the recent collapse in the market for recycled items, which could potentially give councils a major problem if they are unable to sell the collected materials. In addition, there were stories about materials being stockpiled because no one wanted to buy. We want to find out ways of  making sure that does not happen again and we will also be looking at the amount of materials exported to places like China.

‘We want to see if there are ways in which materials can be recycled in the North East of England instead. Plastics are a good example. There are companies in this area that could use discarded plastics as raw materials.’