Swansea University and ReCircle: Closing the Loop

Swansea University Business Engagement Officer, Jess Hughes, explains why the university is collaborating with ReCircle to develop a closed-loop recycling appliance. 

ReCircle Recycling Ltd and Swansea University plan to co-operate on the development of near-infra-red (NIR) material sensors for the ReCircle appliance.

NIR spectroscopy has become a mature and versatile technique for solving research and industry process control problems. Importantly for the ReCircle project, both the cost and size of the NIR units have been reducing at an amazing rate.

RRL is excited to be teaming up with the world-leading Swansea University team for the ReCircle NIR sensor development. Swansea Uni is rated Number 8 of UK universities on the Materials Technology table.

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Interview transcript:

Yes, definitely. It’s definitely the right time for more of a circular economy approach. The environment, climate change, waste, plastic in particular – is much more people's agenda now than it has been in the past and rightfully so.

I think we have to move really quickly. Because it's on people's agenda, it's on the government agenda. I think that there's more pressure from consumers, the public, you know for companies to make a change, for government to make a change.

In the UK autumn budget 30% of all plastic has to come from recycled sources so now the value of waste plastic is going to increase and this is where appliances like what ReCircle is looking to produce really comes into its own.

It's going to put the power back into the hands of the consumer they are going to have a product that they can essentially sell back into these companies which they have to use – it is set out in the autumn budget that 30% of their plastic has to come from recycled sources. So there is value in it.

Suddenly you're adding and an economic aspect into recycling which obviously is going to drive the take up of that.

When I met Aldous the plastics and pet he was really passionate about this idea and you know he's moved forward considerably with the idea himself and by working with the university means that he can draw upon our knowledge and expertise in relation to the sensors in order to actually get this product into a prototype and take it to market.

Plastic is a huge problem. It it has an exceptionally long lifespan before it degrades, it’s in our food chain. I don’t want to demonise plastic – it's a great material and it was a great invention but we need to make more of it than what we're currently doing and this appliance by ReCircle allows that to happen.

In short yes i think we will realise a circular economy simply because there is no choice, we'll have to do that. According to scientific research we have 12 years in order to make a significant change towards a more sustainable planet. I think we have to realise the the true carbon cost of the resources that we're using. In order to actually start moving towards a more circle economy we have to see value past the point of sale – so we have to see value in our waste. This is where the project with ReCircle comes into force.

The great thing about a domestic appliance is that it puts the power back into the hands of the consumer. People wanted to make a change. I think that you pretty much have the buy-in of society already. But what's out there in order for them to actually do anything about it?

How do i as a consumer make sure that my plastics being recycled? I don't know after it’s left my front door – I’ve put it into recycling – but it's mixed in with all other plastics. How do I know that that actually gets recycled and doesn’t end up in landfill? Doesn’t end up in the ocean?

Appliances like this means that my plastic would be segregated, it would be given a value because I'd be able to sell it back to these manufacturing companies. So I know that it's being recycled.