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Winners in waste

 11 JUN 2018

Winners in waste

The businesses in Renewi's Monostreams Division are dedicated not only to turning waste into new, usable products, but also to building strong relationships with our partners and the communities in which we work.

Last autumn, our Coolrec subsidiary began a project with telecommunications company KPN and the KNSB (the Royal Dutch Skaters Association), to recycle the precious metals from old mobile phones and turn them into gold, silver and bronze medals. These were awarded at the NK All-round & Sprint Championships in January 2018.

Arjen Wittekoek, Director of Coolrec, explains: "All the medals are made of a base of copper and zinc, with the gold and silver ones electroplated with precious metal. There's a lot of metal in mobile phones and the supply of gold and silver was no problem, but we struggled to get enough zinc."

Sourcing the medal ribbons from ethical, sustainable recycled fabric was a challenge, until Arjen and his team thought of the idea to recycle old Coolrec flags.

"What began as a marketing and publicity initiative turned into an opportunity to develop relationships," Arjen says. "We are a recycling company and we had never designed medals before! But the pilot was a great success and we hope to repeat it next year."

Turning food waste into bioplastic
At Renewi's specialist organic waste subsidiary, Orgaworld, a pilot is under way to turn household waste into bioplastics. The project is taking place in partnership with Delft University of Technology and the chemical engineering firm Paques.

"The project has huge potential," says Klaas van den Berg, Managing Director of Orgaworld. "Our ambition is to convince every household to use a separate bin for food waste, and for that waste to be recycled into bioplastics for bags to be used in the future. It's truly circular: you make a product from waste that then allows more waste to be recycled."

People in the community who use Orgaworld's products are already a vital element in the partnership, Klaas says. "Every year, we invite people who live in the area of our installation to come and help themselves to compost for their gardens. That's our way of giving back to our public the product that we make from their waste. They can also buy the green energy we produce. The bioplastics project is a new dimension of the process of using waste to give back to society."

Sustainable paving tiles
A partnership between Renewi's Mineralz business, the municipality of Duiven in the Eastern Netherlands and concrete producer De Hamer has resulted in a sustainable paving tile created from what Paul Dijkman, Director of Mineralz, describes as "the rest of the rest".

"Around the world, the residue of the incineration process ends up in landfill," he says. "It's occasionally used to surface roads, but it's generally regarded as a dirty material. Under the recycling Green Deal agreement with the Netherlands government, we set a goal of upcycling this 'bottom ash': bringing it higher up in the circular economy, not as a dirty construction material but as a clean one."

The ash is delivered to the Mineralz facility, where any valuable metals are extracted. The remaining 'mineral fraction' is washed and used to make FORZ® granules, a substitute for sand and gravel in concrete products that is itself recyclable.

"Bottom ash did not have a good reputation," Paul says. "But our partners were willing to listen to our ideas and try new things. Now we have a product that is clean, safe and has long-term sustainability."