BiofuelClean GrowthEnergy storageEnvironment & Climate

Global Recycling Day 18.03.2021. How is Industrial Recycling supporting the green revolution?

By March 18, 2021 No Comments

Recycling is a daily occurrence for most of us. We recycle at home, dutifully separating our plastics, card & food in some cases.

For many of us (working in a physical office & or workspace) our employers have environmental policies in place to ensure they meet environmental laws & again, recycling is a part of our working lives.

However, beyond our homes & workplaces there is a green revolution happening, whereby even our most polluting plastics & industrial waste are being recycled & re-purposed.

With natural resources still being sourced for global manufacturing purposes & lifestyle choices, there is a real fear that in the not too distant future, we will begin to see some of them run out. For example, with electrification of vehicles advancing, so too does the need for Lithium, the key element for lithium-Ion batteries.

The Global Recycling Foundation who has spearheaded Global Recycling Day has a core mission:

  1. To tell world leaders that recycling is simply too important not to be a global issue, and that a common, joined up approach to recycling is urgently needed.
  2. To ask people across the planet to think resource, not waste, when it comes to the goods around us – until this happens, we simply won’t award recycled goods the true value and repurpose they deserve. (1)

So how are we as inhabitants of planet Earth seeking ways to recycle & reuse our industrial waste, before we run our natural resources dry? How can we utilise waste products to generate more energy, in an electric world?

There are many companies across the globe who have & continue to recycle industrial waste & transform the end product into a fully reusable other item, an energy source, a road, new clothing or even shoes. So, who are these pioneers & what strategies are they using to remove our industrial & sometimes toxic waste streams, & re-purpose them for the benefit of human kind?

Lithium-ion batteries

Of the 180,000 metric tons of Li-ion batteries available for recycling worldwide in 2019, just a little over half were recycled. As lithium-ion battery production soars, so does interest in recycling. (2)

As previously mentioned, with lithium continuing to be mined for battery usage in electric vehicles; we are still continuing to use this natural resource in it’s raw state, above recycling.

However, there are about a hundred companies worldwide who recycle lithium-ion batteries or plan to do so soon. The industry is concentrated in China & South Korea, where the vast majority of the batteries are also made, but there are several dozen recycling startups in North America & Europe. (2)

One UK company already recycling & reclaiming the Nickel, Cobalt & Lithium from EV & PHEV batteries is Cawleys based in Luton. Despite the inherent hazards involved in recycling lithium-ion batteries due to their volatile nature; Cawleys are able to, through collaboration with their partners; recover the Nickel, Cobalt & Lithium & ensure this is all returned to the recycle streams to be reused in other applications.

Food recycling & Anaerobic Digestion

Many local authorities have now made it illegal for households to dispose of their food waste amongst their general rubbish. Households are provided with food recycling bins & encouraged to dispose of food waste in this manner.

When food waste makes it’s way into landfill & begins to decompose; it releases harmful GHG’s such as Methane & Carbon Dioxide. With global food production being responsible for nearly 26% of GHG’s emitted each year, 6% of this is from food wasted, grown or not eaten or simply thrown away. (4)

With the UK producing in excess of 20 million tonnes of food waste every year; it is a wasteful commodity which could be transformed into another useful & beneficial product.

The food waste collected by local authorities mostly makes it’s way to Anaerobic Digestion processing plants. Anaerobic Digestion uses micro-organisms known as methanogens to breakdown food matter & convert it into bio methane, a renewable form of energy. This gas is used to create heat & electricity which has a variety of uses including contributing to the running of the National Grid. (2)

However, it is not only food waste which is being recycled into energy. Broadley Copse Farm in West Sussex, UK, is recycling & transforming pig manure into energy.

Broadley Copse Anaerobic Digestion Plant situated on the site of Basil Bairds Farm, where they have been rearing outdoor sows for over 50 years; was built to solve a problem. With the Pig Farm expansion, came a significant issue with excessive manure. The Anaerobic Digestion plant was built & completed in 2018 & produces green energy – 85% of which is sold to the national grid & the remainder is used to power the farm & the plant itself. (3)

Energy & Hydrogen from Industrial Waste Streams  

It is sadly no secret that there are millions of tonnes of industrial waste products produced each year, which simply cannot be recycled through traditional or regular waste management channels.

In these cases, specialist companies are forging ahead with new technologies to solve the issues.

One British company already making headway, is Powerhouse Energy Plc.

Powerhouse Energy plc had one objective from the start & that was to “identify, engineer & develop the world’s most efficient & economically viable & appropriate solution to a growing problem, namely the need for diversion of waste away from landfill & converting that waste into much needed & commercially viable products (5)

The Powerhouse Energy plc DMG® Technology is the pioneering process of recovering energy from unrecyclable plastic, end-of-life tyres & other waste streams through small scale gasification into an energy rich clean syngas (synthetic gas similar to natural gas) from which electrical power & hydrogen can be produced. (5)

The outputs from the DMG® Technology can be built to suit customer needs such as:

  • Energy rich syngas with chemical precursors for industry
  • Electrical Power
  • Heat or Cooling
  • Road fuel quality 99.999% pure hydrogen (5)

These are only a few examples of the lesser known efforts being made by startups & established waste management companies to tackle our growing waste & recycling issues. As the spotlight falls on how Governments & Policy Makers can seek ways to support & encourage recycling, in particular in areas where landfill simply is not an option; we must consider how we can forge forward with a global effort on recycling, rather than continue to exhaust our natural resources.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.