VIDEO: Knowaste opens first of six recycling plants in UK

A pioneering new waste recycling facility that processes nappies and other absorbent hygiene products (AHP) has opened in the West Midlands - making it the first of its kind in the UK, with a proposed five more in the pipeline.

The Canadian owned Knowaste facility, which is based in West Bromwich was officially opened last week (September 12), has the capacity to recycle 36,000 tonnes of AHP products each year using ground breaking new technology developed in the US, Canada and Holland that converts the waste to plastic, paper and compost.

If successful, Knowaste’s chief financial officer, Martyn Lewis, told edie that the project, which cost in the region of £6M to build using equity from a partner company, is looking to raise around £25M to fund a further four or five plants across the UK, with proposed sites in London, Scotland, the north west and south west.

Lewis also said Knowaste is in talks with local authorities and councils, and so far has had a “positive response”, however he added councils will only be willing to contract waste for recycling if it is economically viable option.

Lewis said: “We are looking to work with local authorities and councils in the future, and have so far had a good response from them. However, working with local authorities has its own challenges as many have already contracted their waste out.

“Although we have sufficient commercial waste coming in, we see local authority waste as having the greatest market growth potential.”

It is anticipated that Knowaste’s proposed two London sites in the east and south west of the capital would each have the capacity to handle around 60,000 tonnes of AHP waste from the commercial sector.

However, Knowaste said that the proposal to build new sites depends on the success of its inaugural West Bromwich site, which it said has so far attracted a “great deal of attention”.

Meanwhile, Knowaste’s chief executive officer, Roy Brown, spoke to edieWaste about the significance of the site in diverting waste from landfill and explained how the technology worked in an exclusive video interview.

During the Knowaste process, AHP waste materials are broken apart and sterilized in an autoclave, before being washed and exposed to a chemical treatment to deactivate the absorbent polymers in the material.

The individual components are then mechanically separated into organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers, which can then be compressed into small pellets that can be melted down and reused for products such as roofing tiles, outdoor seating or recycled paper.

Any remaining organic waste is used for energy generation, although Knowaste said that is treats 95% of materials on site, with just a small amount of waste being sent to landfill. Any metals removed by the process are sold to local companies for recycling.

Knowaste’s technical advisor, David Grimes, told edieWaste: “The benefits of this system is that less waste is being sent to landfill as it is all reused in the recycling process.

“We are also working at putting a gasifed system on site as it is our aim to have a self-sufficient unit.”

Carys Matthews

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