Energy from Waste

Research centre plays central role in pilot plant

An award-winning collaboration between a recycling business and a university will reduce the waste going to landfill and generate valuable bi-products in the process with the help of Mitchell Dryers.

Recycling Lives and the University of Central Lancashire (Uclan) have found a way of heating up the shredded plastic residue from scrap cars to create gas that can be used to generate energy. The process also creates a carbon residue which could be used, for example, as a soil improver.

We were a natural partner for the project given our unique UK expertise in high temperature thermal treatment systems. Once Recycling Lives and Uclan had carried out laboratory trials on small material samples, we helped take the project to the next stage by designing and building a pilot scale plant that enables 50 to 100 kilos of material to be pyrolysed per hour.

“Our research and test centre is all about proof of concept,” explains James Douglas, Mitchell Dryers technical director. “It’s where we have pilot scale versions of different drying systems, which we use to determine which technology will best suit individual materials and customer requirements. We believe it’s a facility unique in Europe, if not the world, because of the extensive range of drying solutions we can trial. We’re not constrained by one technology.”

The next stage of the project is to design and build an industrial-scale system capable of processing around 1.5 tonnes of material an hour.

It’s estimated that improved handling of automotive shredder waste will help Recycling Lives save about £1.5 million per year as well as generate 1,200 kilowatts of electricity. The company processes around 100,000 ‘end-of-life’ cars per year, and although metal components and some other recyclable materials are extracted, everything else – about 12,000 tonnes of shredder residue – has to be sent to landfill each year.

Times Higher Education presented Recycling Lives and Uclan with the Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration award in 2018.

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