Please fill in the short form below and we will get back to you shortly
Recycling material from road sweeping offers a revenue stream from the waste collected, as well as the benefit of a reduction in the amount of waste sent to landfill. However, for some time now, it has been a big problem for much of the UK, despite the existence of highly efficient technology used to treat the waste. But the incentive is clear. With rising landfill costs and the reduction of sites, recovering materials rather than offloading them is becoming an attractive option. Companies are now recognising the economic benefits of road sweepings and gully waste, and that it has the potential to become a valuable resource.
For Rebecca Murphy-Peers, managing director of road sweeper hire business UBU Environmental, deciding to recycle street sweepings rather than taking them to landfill was a sustainability issue. She says: ‘We were bringing so much waste back, with so much water in the waste, and it was expensive to get rid of. It was also unattractive to landfill companies, who want dry material. This means drying it out over a matter of months, which is not a very sustainable option if you have a lot of material.’ The company looked at various options to divert waste from landfill and, after several years of trial and error, it made a substantial investment in a bespoke turnkey road-sweeping and gully waste recycling system through waste processing system company CDEnviro. ‘We have around 120 road sweepers in the Manchester area, so the solution that we were looking for had to have a volume criteria embedded into it,’ says Murphy-Peers. It proved to be adaptable enough to cope with the wet waste and allowed the recovery and reuse of recycled material, including the use of sand and stone for offsetting virgin materials. The technology also allowed the size output for aggregates to be modified so that specific diameters could be supplied for customers. Installed in 2016, the company is continually modifying the system. ‘There’s lots of seasonality in our work,’ says Murphy-Peers. ‘Being based in Manchester, we get a lot of wet weather, so the waste may be wetter than usual. ‘We’re constantly working with CDEnviro to enhance the system to process the liquid elements.’
Key to the success of the circular economy for road sweeping is the development of technology that helps make it possible. New innovations are crucial to encourage more firms to embrace it. CDEnviro initially developed the HYDRO:TIP – technology that offers maximum dewatering and processing of slurried waste to produce clean reusable sand, aggregate and water products – for material that had a high moisture content. But, the equipment also presented an opportunity to capture more water from waste streams for increasing water treatment and recirculation. Matt Bunting, regional director at CDEnviro, acknowledges there’s a variety of factors driving the market. ‘The biggest one is the rising landfill tax coupled with the “landfill void” – the depletion and closing of landfill sites. Plus, there’s a shortfall in virgin aggregates,’ he says. ‘Companies are also mindful of their carbon footprint increasing; excessive transport of waste; and the need to take a greener approach.’ One of the biggest challenges for Matt Bunting is evertightening legislation, ‘but this also presents an opportunity’. Murphy-Peers believes that economics are to blame for poor recycling rates with regards to road sweepings. ‘The issue that smaller companies might have, when they don’t have much material to recover, is that it’s not very viable to invest in the machinery,’ she explains. ‘So they send everything to landfill.’ ‘Value, to us, is secondary to that of resolving the sustainability issue. Sand has a value that has not increased, as has the aggregate that we recover. It would be great to bring local material back into use but, from a construction point of view, there is very little incentive for a buyer to source materials from us rather than from a builder’s merchants.’
To make the recovery process viable, it’s vital that companies look at the bigger picture. ‘You have to look at everything together,’ says Murphy-Peers. ‘It’s the cost of the equipment, the ongoing maintenance, employees who work on the treatment plants, drivers who load the machines, the cost of chemicals and overheads… for us to optimise it in the long-term, we’d ideally look for smaller companies to use our facility, as the lifespan of the plant is 20 years. ‘We’d like to work with local authorities, deal with their waste and be able to tell them how much of it has been diverted from landfill. This, in turn, could help those responsible for the collection and disposal of the waste to embrace their corporate social targets fully, as well as recovering extracted products that can be reused in construction or landscaping projects.’