Scott Bros. has agreed a new research partnership with Teesside University to discover new and innovative uses for discarded plastics.
The Stockton-based waste and recycling experts are hoping academics can find a commercial use for a wider range of plastics which are difficult to reuse.
One of the possibilities to be investigated is whether the plastics, which can end up in landfill, may instead be used in the manufacture of construction materials, including concrete.
The family-run firm is already working with experts from the University’s School of Computing, Engineering and Digital Technologies to find a use for a clay-based ‘filter cake’ produced by its £1m wash plant.
The ‘urban quarry’ processes construction and excavation waste to produce high quality sand and aggregates for use in the building and construction industry.
However, 30 per cent of every 20 tonnes processed by the plant is filter cake, which can currently only be used as pond lining clay or inert fill.
The research, due to conclude next summer, is looking to create a method of binding the material together to produce a commercial cementitious product for use in the manufacture of bricks and floor screeds.
Both projects undertaken by the University are part-funded – the plastics project by the European Regional Development Fund and the filter cake project by Innovate UK – part of programmes designed to help business innovate through academic support.
Bob Borthwick, a Director of Scott Bros, said: “We hope that the research project into plastics will match the encouraging progress which is being made in the filter cake project.
“As a recycling company, we are passionate about maximising the efficiency of resources as part of a growing momentum towards achieving a circular economy.
“The issue of plastic waste is of major public concern and Scott Bros, in partnership with the University, is taking practical action to uncover a commercial use for plastics which will benefit both the environment and the economy.
“We want to extend the range and volume of plastics that are recycled by discovering a value in the material which will prevent it from simply being thrown away.”
Teesside University student Deeshani Wijesekara has been assigned to work alongside Scott Bros. and they are also receiving academic support from Dr Paul Sargent, Senior Lecturer in Civil Engineering.
Dr Sargent said: “We are working collaboratively with Scott Bros. on a number of projects and are pleased to be able to use our joint expertise and experience to investigate new ways of improving our circular economy.
“Post-consumer plastic waste is a huge environmental issue which urgently needs to be addressed. If we are able to identify alternative uses for discarded plastics, this will have considerable impact, in terms of saving the environment from future unnecessary environmental pollution and economically by adding value to high-volume global waste stream.”