Research at the University of Edinburgh could lead the charge toward UK rare element sustainability
A groundbreaking research initiative at the University of Edinburgh, spearheaded by Professor Louise Horsfall and her research group, holds the promise of revolutionizing the sustainability of rare elements in the UK. Focused on bio-based recycling, the project is centered around the utilization of engineered bacteria as a key component in recovering critical metals from end-of-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
In this innovative approach, bacteria are employed to extract metallic compounds, including cobalt, manganese, nickel, and lithium, from lithium-ion batteries. The goal is to establish a novel UK-based supply chain for rechargeable vehicle batteries by processing and repurposing these valuable elements. Professor Horsfall’s team is collaborating with the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC) to advance the project to an industrial scale. Plastic waste
The FlexBio center within IBioIC facilitates the refinement of the process in a larger bioreactor, marking a significant step toward practical implementation.
To ensure the effectiveness of the engineered bacteria at scale, the Edinburgh Genome Foundry, situated at the University of Edinburgh, has been instrumental in the selection and modification of bacteria. The process involves introducing bacteria into battery leachate, the liquid remaining after initial processing, within a fermenter to simulate a natural biological reaction. During this reaction, the bacteria generate nano-sized particles of metallic compounds, resulting in a sediment that can be separated and filtered from the residual liquid. Tests are currently underway using material recovered from an EV battery previously employed in a Nissan Leaf.
This cutting-edge research is part of the broader Reuse and Recycling of Lithium-Ion Batteries (ReLiB) initiative, led by the University of Birmingham and financially supported by the Faraday Institution—the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science. Plastic waste
With battery electric vehicles comprising 16.1% of total new car sales in the UK from January to June 2023, there is an escalating demand for initiatives that address supply chain pressures and manage waste batteries at the end of their lifespan. As reserves of metals used in batteries diminish, the approach of repurposing existing batteries becomes increasingly vital, especially given that a significant portion of metals in EV batteries is currently imported.
Professor Horsfall, who holds the position of Chair of Sustainable Biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, emphasizes the importance of considering the fate of technology post-use, stating, “This project is about using cutting-edge sustainable biotechnology to find ways of tackling that challenge and, in turn, extract some of the most valuable metals that can go back into the sector at the early stages of vehicle production.”
Liz Fletcher, the Director of Business Engagement at IBioIC, underscores the dual value of the method being developed, stating, “No one wants to see lithium-ion batteries ending up in landfill, so it is important to explore different ways to repurpose and recycle them.”
She adds that the project could not only provide a petrochemical-free solution to waste but also contribute to reshoring the supply chain for rare metals and future battery manufacturing. Plastic waste
This multidimensional approach aligns with the imperative to make everyday products and services, such as cars and transport, more sustainable through the application of biotechnology.
Svensk Plaståtervinning, a Swedish a non-profit company co-owned by Swedish plastics, food and trade industry groups, inaugurated Site Zero, a sorting plant in Motala, Sweden. The plant features Tomra and Sutco equipment and aims to realise a circular economy for plastics by sorting Swedish plastic packaging waste into 12 fractions.
The plant is expected to process 42 metric tons of materials per hour and to recover 12 different types of plastics from mixed plastic packaging waste. This includes a variety of polyolefins, PET, PS, EPS, PVC, and more. The technology allows for purity levels of up to 98%. As of now the clean material fractions are then sent to recyclers in the EU. However, Site Zero is also planning to add recycling capacity to further process the main fractions locally in the future. Plastic waste
With Site Zero the three partners – Svensk Plaståtervinning, Tomra and Sutco – aim to close the loop on plastics and to enable zero waste, zero downcycling and zero emissions. “The plant we are seeing here today is the result of three partners working towards a common goal: closing the loop on plastic packaging.”, Oliver Lambertz, VP and Head of Operations and Feedstock Sourcing at Tomra Feedstock, concludes.
Plastic waste management: Working towards a sustainable future
The European Commission is determined to address the challenge of plastic waste, with a comprehensive strategy and targets that will transform Europe’s plastic waste management and help the transition to a circular economy.
The exponential growth of plastic use is of global environmental concern. It has led to a surge in plastic waste that our current waste management systems are struggling to manage. Plastic waste
Effective plastic waste management has emerged as a significant challenge and opportunity for innovation that requires a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The European Commission told The Innovation Platform about its plans to manage and mitigate plastic waste, the associated challenges and its progress towards ambitious policies and targets
What is the European Commission currently doing to manage plastic waste? What are key policies and how are they being implemented?
Plastics are an important material in our economy and daily lives. However, they can have serious negative effects on the environment and human health. The EU is taking action to tackle plastic pollution and marine litter to accelerate the transition to a circular and resource-efficient plastics economy. Plastic waste
The EU Plastics Strategy was adopted in January 2018 to transform the way plastic products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. We want to improve plastic waste recycling through better design, curbing plastic waste and littering, and driving investments and innovation in the value chain.
From Northvolt comes the sodium ion battery
The intuition of a start up could soon mark a fundamental turning point in the world of electric cars. Northvolt, a Swedish company specializing in the production of batteries, has in fact developed a sodium ion battery, which does not contain lithium, cobalt or nickel, three metals that are not always so easily available and have unstable prices.
The use of sodium would have another fundamental advantage for the West, as it would minimize dependence on China for the purchase of the three elements, lithium in particular. Northvolt’s product is based on a hard carbon anode and a high-sodium “Prussian white” cathode. Due to the increased safety at high temperatures, the company would find it particularly interesting for energy storage in markets such as India, the Middle East and Africa. Plastic waste
This new sodium ion technology is less expensive and safer than the already known electric batteries; however, the amount of energy it produces is currently lower than that of lithium batteries, making it impossible, for the moment, to exploit sodium ion cells to power electric vehicles. The energy density achieved by Northvolt batteries currently reaches 160 watt hours per kilogram, while that of lithium batteries used in electric cars reaches 250/300 watt hours per kilogram. The first generation of sodium ion cells produced by Northvolt is in fact designed mainly for energy storage, while subsequent productions will offer opportunities for greater energy density to be used in electric vehicles.
Peter Carlsson, CEO and co-founder of Northvolt, said this new technology could be worth tens of billions of dollars as demand for electric batteries is set to increase over the next decade. Northvolt is currently the West’s safest hope against China, Korea and Japan, the three giants that hold a monopoly in the production of electric batteries.
However, sodium ion batteries are not an invention of the Swedish start-up; but the novelty is the lack of heavy metals. Plastic waste
In fact, even the Chinese Catl, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, has developed a similar technology, which however also incorporates nickel, cobalt and manganese, making the product much more expensive and less safe, as it could catch fire even at low temperatures .
Carlsson also added: «The world has placed great hopes in sodium ions and I am very pleased to say that we have developed a technology that will serve to accelerate the energy transition.
This is an important milestone for Northvolt’s market proposition, but technology like this is also critical to achieving global sustainability goals, making electrification more affordable, sustainable and accessible around the world.” Plastic waste
Partners committed to building the business and moving towards brand internationalisation.
At ITMA ASIA + CITME currently underway in Shanghai, Oerlikon Barmag has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Shandong Nanshan Fashion Technology for a nylon POY+DTY project in Longkou, Shandong, China.The cooperation will see Oerlikon Barmag provide a completely integrated solution for nylon filament from chip drying and spinning to winding and texturing.Both parties will engage in cooperation based on mutual trust and long-term development considerations, with the target of high-end and sustainable nylon production.
Oerlikon Barmag will provide highly-differentiated nylon filament production solutions, integrate the advantages of Nanshan Fashion’s scientific and technological R&D resources and promote a joint brand for the nylon filament industry. Plastic waste
“For Oerlikon, this is the first time we have had the opportunity to work with an integrated textile manufacturer with a well-known brand in Dellma,” said Georg Stausberg, Oerlikon Polymer Processing Solutions CEO. “This should help us better understand ongoing developments in the consumer market and the demands that they place on the manmade fibre industry. Nanshan Fashion is entering the field of manmade fibre production for the first time and we’ll support the venture with all our experience.”
Nanshan Fashion enters nylon field with Oerlikon
The world is witnessing a growing demand for sustainable and innovative solutions within the textile and fashion industry. To meet the evolving needs of consumers and the environment, Hyosung is collaborating with two of the leading global seamless companies, Tefron and Santoni, to introduce a new generation of sustainable sportswear and seamless apparel made with its certified and multi-functional yarns.
Hyosung, Tefron, and Santoni will unveil its collaborative product, which aims to set new standards in sustainable activewear and seamless clothing, at ISPO Munich this November 28-30 in Hall A1, Booth 335. Plastic waste
“The collaboration between Tefron, Hyosung, and Santoni presents a winning combination of certified eco-friendly raw materials and innovative production techniques,” said Susie Barak, Business Director, Tefron. “By integrating Tefron’s global one-stop shop expertise in seamless knitting with Hyosung’s creora® Bio-Based yarn, the partnership paves the way for innovative designs and styles that were previously challenging to achieve with traditional materials and manufacturing techniques.”
“We are delighted to team-up with two of the most powerful players in the seamless apparel market,” said Simon Whitmarsh-Knight, Hyosung Global Marketing Director -Textiles.
“The benefits of our collaboration are numerous and range from traceable, certified fibres, comfort, and performance to innovative design and versatility.” Plastic waste
To inspire seamless mills and fashion brands, Santoni will introduce its first-ever capsule collection of seamless materials made with Hyosung USDA, SGS-certified creora® Bio-Based elastane, RCS-certified 100% recycled creora® regen elastane, and soft-stretch creora® EasyFlex made on its world-class seamless knitting machines.
At the Santoni ISPO booth, the company will introduce its new SANTONI SM8-TOP2ST machine, a variant of its best-selling SANTONI SM8-TOP2V that allows for the creation of sculptured terry patterns and upgraded seamless designs. Santoni and Hyosung have partnered to create an environmentally friendly and innovative “capsule collection” made with Hyosung USDA, SGS-certified creora® Bio-Based elastane, which will be presented in the Hyosung booth.
The collection features terry knitting solutions to produce different padding effects based on higher protection and comfort. Plastic waste
As awareness grows around the world about the environmental impact of plastic waste, companies and municipalities are ramping up sustainability efforts and looking for solutions.
As awareness grows around the world about the environmental impact of plastic waste, companies and municipalities are ramping up sustainability efforts and looking for solutions. Key to these efforts are technologies like plastic granulators and recycling machines that allow for the efficient breaking down and repurposing of plastic waste.
Plastic granulators are powerful machines that fragment and grind plastic scraps into smaller, uniform pieces called regrinds or granules. The resulting plastic granules provide the feedstock for recycling and can be remade into new plastic products. Common plastic resins that are recycled include PET, PP, HDPE and LDPE. Plastic waste
“Plastic granulators are an essential first step in the recycling process,” said John Smith, president of ABC Recycling Machinery. “They enable us to take in scrap plastic that would otherwise be destined for landfills and grind it into a raw material that can be reborn as new plastic products. It’s a closed-loop system that creates less waste and uses fewer virgin resources.”
There are numerous types of plastic granulators available that are tailored to different plastic scrap streams and volumes. The granulation process reduces the size of plastic feeds such as bottles, containers, film, engineering plastic and other leftovers from manufacturing or post-consumer use. Plastic waste
The granulator uses a cutting chamber and rotating knives to continuously slice the plastic until it is small enough to fall through a sized screen. The screen size and knife design can be configured based on the type of plastic stream input as well as the desired particle output size.
ABC Recycling Machinery offers heavy-duty granulators for large volume recycling as well as smaller bench-top granulators for converting scrap in a lab or small manufacturing setting. The granulators have safety mechanisms to prevent operator injury or contact with internal cutting components. Proper feeding rate, screen configuration, blade sharpness maintenance and stable ground anchoring are also critical to safe and efficient operation. Plastic waste