There must be a better use for the Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) than ‘simply sending it to landfill’, says Ian Skene, Founder and Director of Recycl8, in this opinion feature reviewed by George Niblock, Fellow and Life Member of CIWM.
Disgusted with my golf swing one day, as I contemplated burning my clubs and bag, my waste manager’s brain immediately switched to thinking what the residual ash could be used for?
Having spent over 30 years in the waste management industry, I have long felt that there must be a better use for the Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) than simply sending it to landfill.
I am a passionate advocate for the circular economy and feel we owe it to ourselves, and to future generations to capture every opportunity to protect the environment.
Diverting waste from landfill
Ideals aside, there is clearly an increasingly pressing practical challenge looming, in the form of waste generation. According to The World Bank, “Global annual waste generation is expected to jump to 3.4 billion tonnes over the next 30 years, up from 2.01 billion tonnes.”
Our business process is targeted at reducing the amount of this waste that ends up in landfill, in a way that is very much rooted in fact and science. Recycl8’s unique process will allow IBA to be converted into Incinerator Bottom Ash Aggregate (IBAA) to make up 60% by volume of the concrete, reducing the impact of virgin quarried aggregates.
If all UK IBA was upcycled, it would save around 2.1 million tonnes of CO2
Replacing high C02 emitting cement we will help concrete manufacturers to significantly reduce their carbon footprint and make significant progress towards their climate targets.
If all UK IBA was upcycled, it would save around 2.1 million tonnes of CO2 – a hugely significant opportunity for the waste to energy industry to help the construction industry to simultaneously tackle carbon emissions and recycling challenges, and satisfy the need for the circular economy.
Transforming ideas into action
Being involved in a waste to energy incineration plant, I decided the time was right to act on my vision. So began a period of research and development, where I successfully applied proven technologies from other waste industries to this problematic waste stream, in a bid to transform IBA into a low-carbon range of products.
I learned that this waste product could be stabilised, reducing the potential for leachable heavy metals by 96%. Research has shown that the Recycl8 patent pending process demonstrates that after metal extraction and recycling, any residual chemicals can be securely contained when utilised in hydraulically bound concrete products.
Recycl8’s mission is simple: divert a ‘problem’ waste material (IBA) from landfill and upcycle it into a low-carbon impact concrete. Given the acknowledged environmental impact of concrete there is a clear and growing demand for more sustainable concrete products.
A pioneering process which offers immense opportunities, it is a win/win situation for both energy from waste facilities and the concrete industry.
Investing in our future
Our business plan rapidly captured the imagination of both Government regulatory funders, and private investors, with the latter investing a 7-figure sum.
Following a rigorous application process, we also received funding from both Scottish Enterprise and Innovate UK (a 6-figure sum) which enabled us to accelerate our testing process.
Scheduled for completion in Q2 2022, our testing phase is two-fold: ‘end-of-waste classification’ required by the Environment Agency (England and Wales) and SEPA, in order for them to reclassify the processed material as a product rather than as waste.
The other strand of our testing phase is the development of British Standard compliant strength classification concrete design (BSEN 13286).
Our immediate goal is to complete the testing phase and achieve the certification, which will allow us to bring our product to market by the end of the year. We are actively engaging with waste to energy operators, concrete manufacturers, and the wider construction industry.
Global demand for a circular economy solution is already high, with global concrete manufacturers engaging with us to develop specific testing programmes
Global demand for a circular economy solution is already high, with global concrete manufacturers engaging with us to develop specific testing programmes.
Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do within the waste-to-energy sector and the construction industry, to secure efficiencies that are both good for business and good for the planet. We are building relationships with companies in the global offshore windfarm supply chain and have joined forces with the UK regional offshore wind ‘clusters’.
So, I still have my golf clubs, and my swing may still require some work. Realising my vision has been worthwhile and I am very proud of what the Recycl8 Team have built so far, and I look forward to what the rest of 2022 will bring.
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