Sydney students turn brewery wastewater into energy

Australian start up switch2 Engineering has developed a technology that can convert brewery wastewater into hydrogen, a clean burning fuel. By doing so, breweries are able to repurpose the hydrogen as a fuel for heating, transportation and electricity. Using this technology, breweries can not only save costs on utility bills, but do so sustainably, according to the founders.

Read more

Sustainable alternative to plastics in packaging

A new translucent barrier paper, Sylvicta has been developed by Arjowiggins, a Scottish independent paper manufacturer as a sustainable alternative to plastics in packaging.

Through precision fibre refining, Arjowiggins’ research and development teams have developed the translucent paper with a natural bonding without the need of any harmful chemicals. The result is a paper with a barrier to oxygen, aroma, mineral oils, and fatty foodstuffs.

According to Spicers, by answering the market need for sustainable alternatives to single-use packaging and flexible laminates, Sylvicta offers brands a high-quality barrier packaging solution that enables brands to reduce or even eradicate the use of plastics in their packaging.

Circular Economy

The company considers Sylvicta as a solution for creating a globally sustainable, circular economy, especially as it can integrate into existing recycling schemes. Sylvicta’s has a high barrier to oxygen which is the leading cause of food spoilage. This means it can also reduce food waste by prolonging shelf life.

Meanwhile, Arjowiggins is working with packaging converters to open up what it says is an endless array of applications from pouches for dry fruits, bags for salads, sachets for solid soap, sacks for pet food and flow-packs for chocolate bars, through to metallised versions of Sylvicta for butter or margarine packaging.

Sylvicta was created as part of the Arjowiggins mission to help create a circular economy society.

In evidence of its sustainable properties, the paper is fully recyclable, compostable, marine degradable, and made from renewable raw materials.

Spicers general manager supply chain and product segments Ken Booth said that despite the ongoing global movement towards more sustainable packaging solutions, plastics still make up a significant proportion of the market, largely for practical reasons.

“Until now, most of the existing offer, mainly in single-use packaging, use unrecyclable, multi-layered laminates incorporating plastics or aluminium foil.

“With Sylvicta, the majority of current plastic or foil packaging needs can be turned into an environmentally friendly, fully recyclable, compostable and biodegradable paper-based packaging solution.”

Sylvicta benefits from the environmental standards set by Arjowiggins Translucent Papers business and is FSC and PEFC-certified, produced on a site that is ISO 14001-compliant and is carbon-offset through the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced programme.

Translating waste tech from laboratory to local manufacturing

Founded in 2008 by Professor Veena Sahajwalla, the Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) at the University of New South Wales, collaborates with industry, global research partners, not-for-profits, and governments to develop innovative environmental solutions for some of the world’s largest waste challenges.

Read more

How microrecycling is growing a green aluminium revolution

Research by the UNSW Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT) Centre has found a way that could start a new ‘green aluminium’ manufacturing revolution.

The new technique to recover aluminium from complex, multilayered packaging is based on the microrecycling science pioneered by the SMaRT Centre under the leadership of its director, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, and builds on their waste materials innovations including Green Steel and Microfactorie® technologies.

 Green aluminium

The research, published across two international scientific journals, demonstrates there is now a way to sustainably recycle polymer-laminated aluminium packaging (PLAP) materials, such as post-consumer food and coffee packaging, into high-quality aluminium and be a potential source of high-energy hydrocarbon products.’

“We developed Green Steel technology where we extract hydrogen and carbon from old rubber tyres and plastic as an innovative and green pathway in steel making , and we now can develop new ‘Green Aluminium’ with our novel technique called Thermal Disengagement Technology (TDT),”  Sahajwalla said whose SMaRT Centre is part of the UNSW Science Faculty.

“Recycling using new technologies can be a foundation for the manufacturing of high-quality materials from our waste resources, as we seek to develop greater sovereign capability along with economic prosperity.”

Thermal Disengagement Technology

The new Thermal Disengagement Technology, described in scientific publications Springer Nature and the Journal of Cleaner Production, offers an innovative, efficient, and sustainable microrecycling technique to separate the materials in complex polymer-laminated metal packaging waste. TDT can transform the aluminium into a clean and green metal, allowing it to be extracted in a way that means it can be used as a high-quality material for manufacturing, while minimising residual waste.

According to Sahajwalla, “Green Steel and green manufacturing are capabilities we have been pioneering for over a decade. The jobs and sustainability revolution our government wants to create as announced in its 2020 Budget can get a boost from some of these sort of existing innovations where industry and researchers are already successfully partnering.

“Using waste-reforming technology can create new supply chains and jobs, especially in regional locations, because it doesn’t have to be large scale nor expensive. That is why I see a future where recycling and manufacturing are aligned, where waste and recycling become part of the manufacturing supply chain, and that is important in this new COVID era where we now highly value ‘sovereign capability’.

In one demonstration of how SMaRT is helping to create these new supply chains and aligning these sectors, it has connected an e-waste recycler directly with a steel maker enabling undervalued metals and plastics destined for overseas, landfill or incineration, can be used as feedstock.

Key research findings

Waste polymer laminated aluminium packaging (PLAP) material were analysed by Thermal Disengagement Technology (TDT) to explore the prospect of recycling the metal-polymer multilayer materials with minimum contamination and zero waste of metal (aluminium). Laminated polymers on the metallic surface essentially demand some extra effort and energy to recycle the metal in its original form. In these studies, the effect of the laminated polymers of the aluminium surface to protect the surface contamination by means of oxidation was explored. The rate of the transformation of the polymers in the air atmosphere is higher than the rate can be achieved in an inert atmosphere.

TDT to recycle the polymer laminated Aluminium packaging with and without an inert gas supply has been developed to produce specifically high-quality aluminium. The oxidation of the aluminium surface in air media was higher and non-uniform compared to the inert media. At 550 degrees centigrade, the complete degradation of the polymers was observed within 20 min and the recovery of the aluminium was achieved without any metal loss with a very high purity. The surface analysis of the laminated and non-laminated TD aluminium confirms that the rate of oxidation in oxygen-rich atmosphere for disengaged aluminium from PLAP is 80-90% lower and the polymers can act as the protection against the oxidation of the aluminium surfaces even after the complete degradation of the polymers by leaving the carbonaceous residues behind onto the surfaces.

The level of purity of recovered Aluminium is achieved ~96-99% with minor impurity/alloying elements of C, Si, Fe, etc. Oxidation of the recovered aluminium was controlled and detected less than 1% by our new and innovative TDT. The cleaner aluminium produced by this process has the desired scalability which is required for taking laboratory batch reactions towards industrial production.

The recycling of PLAP materials demands a process where whole materials can be processed and recycled with a minimum waste of energy and materials. TDT overcomes these constraints. Several recycling techniques including traditional smelting have been practiced by the researchers and professionals. But the major problems associated with the traditional smelting of PLAP materials are excessive material loss and lack of controlling aids during the smelting.

In many countries, waste polymer laminated metal packaging materials along with other municipal solid waste going to landfills or incineration and some of the materials are recycled in metallic forms from the bottom ash components by industrial separation. The low value packaging materials containing polymers and aluminium found in the MSW draw no interest from recyclers.