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Improving recycling rates from automotive shredder residue

Since 2015, the target for recycling vehicles when they come to the end of their life has been set at 95% of their weight. Of this target at least 85% must be recycled and the remaining fraction can be achieved through char and metal recovery. This is a difficult challenge to meet using conventional recycling practices.

Research led by Professor Karl Williams working with the Preston waste management company Recycling Lives has resulted in the company investing in new technology and processes to meet these government targets for recycling end-of-life vehicles. This has created 10 new jobs, making a significant impact on employment in the area and added to the local economy. The new employees have come through the Recycling Lives charity arm, which helps disadvantaged individuals back into society.

The company can now meet the 95% target due to the development of post- shredding technologies, which includes sink-float separation and pyrolysis. The Pyrolysis facility is a joint venture between the company and the University with a combined investment of £750k. As part of this, the Parnaby plant effectively turns the non-recyclable shredded automotive waste into a valuable commodity and also diverts the material away from landfill, allowing Recycling Lives to recover metal with a value of approximately £1.5 million per year. The Parnaby plant and the Pyrolysis unit support further research and development by providing the facilities to experiment on new materials to be recycled. The facility is the basis for the building of three new commercial plants. The adoption of the new process has the potential to divert 400,000 tonnes per year of material away from landfill, providing benefits for both the economy and the environment. The project won the Most Innovative Contribution to Business-University Collaboration Award at the Times Higher Education Awards in November 2018.

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