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Waste Not Want Not

Everyone is encouraged to recycle, to not waste the Earth’s resources and so on. You won’t find an office in Britain anymore without the standard waste paper bin, probably a bottle box as well. But FMJ is investigating the more interesting and unusual items that can be recycled, and the benefits they can have to your business

If Vernon Kay’s magic survey asked 100 people to name “something that is consistently recycled,” I very much doubt that a single one of them would mention whiskey left over in the distillation process.

whiskyUnless of course the survey included Richard Gueterbock or any of his colleagues at Clearfleu.

Founded seven years ago, Clearfleu are experts in the field of Anaerobic Digestion (AD).

“We prefer to say we are in the business of by-product residues, not waste management” Gueterbock explains. “Our philosophy is that waste is just a resource that is in the wrong place.”

AD can involve household and high street waste, farmyard waste (including animal slurry, crop residue and more) or industrial waste.

Cleafleu’s niche is the food and drink market, focusing on dairy, food production and, yes, distilleries. Essentially what they do is build mini power plants next to food and drink processing factories.

The process involved is, relatively, simple, at least it is once Gueterbock has explained it to me. Production residues and unused ingredients and starches are liquidised and then fed into a large tank where a whirlpool mixes them together. As new food is constantly added into the tank micro-organisms go to work digesting it, effectively this is just a process of controlled rotting. A by-product of this process is the creation of methane which can be fed into boilers or even the gas grid itself.

In some instances this can provide up to 30 per cent of a factory’s energy needs. Gueterbock is critical of Westminster’s failure to realise the potential of AD. “The government’s approach is not positive enough,” he claims. “They don’t recognise the potential value of decentralised energy production. Why produce power and then feed it down the lines when some can be produced on site?”

So there you have it, even starch and leftovers from Scotland’s distilleries is recycled these days.

Okay, so whisky is a weird one. But how about hazardous, or even dangerous products? For that we can speak to PHS. Since the Hazardous Waste Regulations were introduced in 2005, fluorescent light tubes, halogen and sodium lamps have been classed as hazardous waste and therefore cannot be disposed of in landfill. Recycling companies have, for obvious reasons, spent that time making it easier for businesses to address hazardous waste disposal.

Why are these lamps hazardous? In large part it is due to the release of mercury each time one of these (very fragile) lamps breaks.image_(6)

At Recyclite, PHS’ recycling arm, the lamps are fed into a machine, which is made up of re-used farm and agricultural machinery, crushed and sorted into three main components; glass, metal caps and phosphor powder. The metal (aluminium) is relatively simple to isolate and collect and is ultimately sent on to metal recycling specialists.

Separating the glass and phosphor powder is a more technical challenge involving an ever more refined process of rubbing and vibrating the substances until the smaller phosphor particles can be sieved from the larger glass particles. In 2014, Recyclite recycled 85 per cent of all the glass collected.

The end result is ultra clean glass powder, which is taken to local aggregates companies for use as a road layering material. Meanwhile, the phosphor powder is collected and processed by specialist Waste Electrical, Electronic, Equipment (WEEE) Solutions. Interestingly, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) set a UK target to collect a total of 490,000 tonnes of WEEE in 2014; a target which was met with 491,007 tonnes having been collected across the year.

About Sarah OBeirne


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