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Why the black stuff can boost recycling.

01st December 2015

The black stuff.  It’s the subject of global speculation, price fluctuation and can make or break a nation.  But it’s the other black stuff – and not that served by the pint in Dublin’s Temple Bar – that’s got the resource sector fixated.

It’s the black stuff from Britain’s network of energy recovery facilities to which I refer and it’s bottom ash can help boost British recycling.

Britain has thrown away old thinking on waste. In addition to waste reduction, reuse and enhanced recycling, recovering renewable energy from what remains has become an established principle.

A network of 40 energy recovery facilities operate safely today and every day across the UK. They operate in nations such as Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands which have the highest contributions from energy recovery in Europe, but also show the highest rates of recycling.


So if we recognise the role of recovery, why not the place for IBA recycling? Incinerator Bottom Ash (IBA) is the non-hazardous black stuff with a range of circular economy applications.

None of this is new. Ash from coal fired power plants has been an important construction product for decades. It’s called PFA – pulverized fuel ash.

We call ours IBA– transformed, in time, to incinerator bottom ash aggregate.

Viridor works to ensure this valuable product is recycled into important construction products, with uses such as capping layers, sub bases, trenches and blinding concrete to structures.

A large number of prestigious and nationally important projects have used thousands of tonnes of this material such as M25 widening, M6 Toll road, the Olympic parks, Dockland Light Railway and the Heathrow Terminal 5 project.


Now, with the European Commission Circular Economy package looming large on the horizon, IBA is set to boost British recycling. Word on the street is that UKGovernment and the Commission are set to recognise the role of IBA as a residue recyclate. And not before time.

This is significant. It will boost some nations recycling rates by up to 5% and will offer relief to England’s flat lining performance.

And there’s more festive cheer as Britain is on the brink of transforming even more of the bottom ash. In the previous decade the UK produced about 1m tonnes of this material every year. Now with the rollout of residual waste ERFs, by 2020 the UK will treble this amount of ash for treatment and recycling.


And that’s significant due to the material’s metal rich content. Currently IBA has significant quantities of iron, steel, copper, aluminum, brass and other metals that people still leave in their residual waste (that is used as fuel). This too is relatively easily recovered and sent for recycling in the secondary metals markets.

What is important into the future is to be able to recover the rare earth and precious metals from the ash. As the digital age escalates we have ever increasing quantities of electronic equipment and unfortunately not all this goes to the WEEE recycling systems (like our Perth or St. Helen’s facilities) as it should. As a society we are consuming ever increasing quantities of rare metals to make all this electronic equipment.

And that’s the role of IBA that the Commission will this week hopefully wake up to.

Not only will a fresh approach to IBA policy boost European recycling, but it will drive resource security across a continent moving towards a circular economy.

It will capture vital micro particles from the black stuff above the ground.

Let’s all raise a glass to that.

For further information on Viridor’s IBA, contact here.

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