News in Brief - 30/10/19

Geminor waste transportation train
Transport by electric trains causes less CO2 emissions than shipping or truckloads
Geminor launches train transportation of waste from Naples

European waste management company, Geminor, has launched rail transportation of secondary fuels from Naples, Italy, to Copenhagen, Denmark, in place of shipping or truck deliveries.

Late last year, Geminor was the first company to begin exporting waste fuels from Italy to Scandinavia. The contract signed with the municipality of Naples was for the export of 10,000 tonnes of waste annually.

“The export continues as planned, but the transport has now been altered,” says Andreas Hefler, Geminor Country Manager for Germany and Italy.

Cargo will be transported from Naples through Switzerland and Germany every second week with each train journey – which carries approximately 400 tonnes of waste fuels – taking between one and two weeks.

”This project is yet another milestone for Geminor, demonstrating an efficient and sustainable transport option through central Europe,” Hefler continued. “The transport by electric trains is not only CO2-neutral compared to shipping and trailers, it is also more practical.”

“A growing market combined with a lack of truck drivers in Europe gives train transport an increasingly important role on long haul transportation. It is important for Geminor to drive this development, and we hope that others follow suit.”

Read more about Geminor’s transportation on the company’s website.

Scrap magnets
Currently, less than 1 per cent of imported rare earth elements are recycled
Bunting joins rare earth magnets recycling task force

Magnet design and manufacturer, Bunting, is working with several organisations, including the University of Birmingham, to reprocess and recycle rare earth magnets.

Rare earth magnets are widely used in many high-tech industries, including electronics, automotive, aerospace, e-mobility, wind power generation and consumer goods

In June this year, the EU-funded SUSMAGPRO project was launched in Germany.

The four-year SUSMAGPRO (Sustainable Recovery, Reprocessing and Reuse of Rare-Earth Magnets in a Circular Economy) project’s aim is to develop four novel pilot-plant solutions for the clean and sustainable recovery, reprocessing and reuse of rare earth magnets and the rare earth elements (REE) contained within. In the second half of the project, a travelling roadshow will display these new products

“Rare earth magnets are a key component in many frequently used items of equipment,” explained Chris Riley, the Group Magnetics Engineer of Bunting’s European operation.  “With limited resources, developing effective methods to reclaim and then recycle or reuse the magnets is increasingly important.”

The vast majority of rare earth reserves are located in China and between 2,000 and 3,000 tonnes of REE are imported into Europe annually. Presently, less than one per cent of the imported REE are recycled.

Riley added: “Not only are there obvious environmental benefits, but also economic. Using secondary REE materials reduces Europe’s reliance on imports from China.”

Bunting’s role in the project is to market the recycled magnets or magnetic material produced during the recycling process. 

Read more about Bunting’s work on the company’s website, and more about SUSMAGPRO on the project website.

Tetra Pak presented with Product Footprinting Award
Tetra Pak packaging has reduced its carbon footprint by 21 per cent
Tetra Pak wins Carbon Trust award

On 16 October, Tetra Pak was presented with the Product Footprinting Award at the Carbon Trust’s Annual Corporate Sustainability Summit in London.

The award recognises Tetra Pak’s switch to a partially plant-based material for its Tetra Brik and Tetra Prisma cartons, which resulted in a 21 per cent reduction in the packaging’s carbon footprint.

Charles Brand, President of Tetra Pak Europe and Central Asia, said: “We are committed to helping our customers minimise the environmental impacts of their packaging choices and we are thrilled this is being recognised through our award from Carbon Trust.

“Our cartons are made predominantly from plant-based materials such as paperboard and plant-based polymers, which have a significantly lower carbon impact than alternative packaging options such as most bottles or cans. Plant-based materials can be replenished over time and, when grown and managed responsibly, positively contribute to reduced climate impact.”

Tetra Pak and Carbon Trust have also been collaborating on an online Carton CO2 Calculator that helps users to make informed choices on packaging based on carbon impact.

Commenting on the award, Hugh Jones, Carbon Trust’s Managing Director said: “We are delighted to acknowledge Tetra Pak’s impressive work on reducing the carbon impact of its packaging with this Best in Product Footprinting Award. Not only has it delivered a significant reduction in the carbon footprint of its Tetra Brik and Tetra Prisma packaging, it has also created an important tool to support customers to make more informed purchasing choices through its online carbon calculator.

“We have worked with Tetra Pak for a number of years as they have taken increasingly progressive steps in climate leadership, and we are delighted that they will be carrying the Carbon Trust ‘Reducing CO2 Packaging’ label on pack to communicate the sustainability of new ranges.”

Find out more about Tetra Pak’s products and the Carbon CO2 Calculator on the company’s website.

Anaerobic Digestion plant
AD treatment of organics can recover nutrients to fertilise depleted soil
Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) submits proposals to Government ahead of the budget

The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) wrote to Chancellor Sajid Javid ahead of the now cancelled budget announcement, setting out the industry's views on the policies needed to stimulate growth of the anaerobic digestion (AD) sector and fulfil its potential to reduce some of the hardest-to-decarbonise emissions. 

ADBA’s letter to the Chancellor highlighted the AD industry's potential to reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by five per cent and help towards achieving the government's 2050 Net Zero emissions target.

ADBA proposes better cross-departmental working to ensure coordinated policy; support towards implementing separate food waste collections; a new funding system; and dedicated Research and Innovation infrastructure for the industry, which has grown by over 350 per cent over the last ten years.

Currently, AD is predominantly recognised for its role in generating green energy, but it also prevents methane emissions from organic wastes left to break down in landfill. ADBA says there is a huge untapped potential for methane capture, use and conversion with millions of tonnes of organic wastes from farming, food and sewage currently not being treated through AD.

Charlotte Morton, ADBA’s Chief Executive, said: "As a result of enjoying consistent policy and funding support, the wind and solar industries have become extremely cost-effective and are now established as part of the renewable energy mix. AD should be given the same fair treatment, to put the sector on the ‘glide path’ to no subsidy, as costs come down and innovation drives cost savings across the industry.

“The sector's progress has already effectively stalled due to the lack of policy certainty, and there is a real risk of losing expertise if there is an ongoing gap in policy provision. Meanwhile, with CABB, we could supercharge our industry and put it at the cutting edge of agricultural science.”

With the UK now gearing up for a general election on 12 December, ADBA – and the rest of the resources and waste sector – will once again have to put proposals on hold as the future direction of the country is once more taken back to the electorate.

Read more about anaerobic digestion on ADBA’s website.

Birmingham Policy Commission discuss future of critical materials
Cobalt, used in lithium ion batteries, and platinum group metals are key to the clean energy sector
Birmingham Uni launches Policy Commission to secure the future of technology-critical materials

On 28 October, researchers at the University of Birmingham united a panel of experts to help secure the future UK supply of technology-critical materials, with the intention to report in March 2020.

The Commission, chaired by former Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir John Beddington brings together experts on policy, technology, trade, regulation, ethics and national security, with the aim to develop a UK plan for the supply of critical materials – vital components of many modern technologies.

Demand for materials like rare earth elements (REE), cobalt, and platinum group metals, is set to increase as we move to an electricity-based society.

Sir John Beddington said the commission focuses on: “A very important issue as we seek to make energy in a much cleaner way. Many of the technologies that we require in the future will require strategic elements and critical materials – which will become essential in our mission to innovate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

While demand increases, these materials are deemed ‘critical’ due to supply restrictions caused by a range of geological, economic, technological and political factors – there has been significant attention in recent months on the potential for using critical materials as leverage in trade disputes.

Commission member and Co-Director of the Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials (BCSECM) Dr Paul Anderson, said: “It’s vital that the UK adopts a coherent strategy on critical materials. For the most part this has been managed at an EU level – the UK now needs to gain a clear understanding of the global supply chain and how the UK fits into this.”

Professor Allan Walton, BCSECM Co-Director, added: “Through the Centre for Strategic Elements and Critical Materials, the University of Birmingham has extensive expertise in this area. Our aim is to provide the momentum and clarity needed to help develop a UK elements strategy and to secure the national political support required for this.”

Find out more about BCSECM’s research on critical materials on the university’s website.