Building a sustainable future for brick waste

The brick-making industry could save millions while diverting contaminated waste away from landfill thanks to a project which puts spent scrubbers from flue pipes to good use.

Speaking at SustainabilityLive!, the UK’s biggest environmental trade show, on Wednesday, Jonathan Powell from Pera Innovation told delegates that the industry as a whole could save £20 million a year by recycling the calcium carbonate filters from its flues, the equivalent of £27,000 per brickworks.

That saving is expected to double over the next five years as fuel prices and landfill gate fees continue to rise.

Established in 1946 by Winston Churchill as a Government-backed organisation charged with helping Britain maintain a technological edge in global markets, Pera has since become an independent, self-funding body.

The BrickFill project is one of many currently underway and , nine months in, things are looking promising.

Mr Powell explained that among the environmental improvements made to the industry over the past 15 years, scrubbers had been put in place to clean toxic flue gases from the firing process.

A downside of this, however, is that the calcium carbonate used in the giant filters becomes contaminated itself and, as well as the environmental problems, the costs of disposing of the hazardous waste were enormous.

“Using our process it’s fed back into the mix of clay rather than sent to landfill,” said Mr Powell.

“Some clays can stand this whereas others can’t, but even with those where the process is not suitable it’s cheaper to transport the contaminated calcium carbonate to a works that can than it is to landfill it.”

Pera is currently working on adapting the process to ensure it is suitable for the widest range of clays possible.

Bricks with added calcium carbonate have to be every bit as good as those without in order to meet industry standards, said Mr Powell, and were tested for strength, porosity, leeching and even aesthetics.

“If a brick doesn’t look right it’s no use to the construction industry,” said Mr Powell.

Pera is optimistic that the process will be widely adopted once the trials have been completed and expects the payback to be around three years for those brickworks which install the technology – after that they will be making considerable year-on-year savings whilst helping the war on waste.

The technology is also transferable to the tile and pipe-firing industries.

Sam Bond

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