In the first of our sustainability and recycling series, we take a look at a recently announced KTP between Heriot-Watt University and leading international PPE manufacturer Alpha Solway, part of Globus Group.

PPE has been an essential part of our everyday lives in the recent past, with little focus given to reusing the materials used. Since the start of the pandemic, an estimated 8.4m tonnes of plastic waste has been generated from 193 countries[1], the majority of which ends up in landfills or, in some areas, in the ocean.

With this in mind, Globus Group has recently embarked on a journey to Net Zero by 2024 and to reduce the impact of PPE on the environment. To help, they’ve enlisted the help of Heriot-Watt University in a KTP project to design and develop a bespoke PPE recycling process.

About Globus Group 

Globus Group is the UK’s largest PPE manufacturer and a leading European provider of innovative protection technology solutions. With over 25 years’ heritage, the organisation is dedicated to developing innovative, high-performing and resilient European-made PPE products for distributors, healthcare providers and clients across global industry.

Alpha Solway of Annan in Dumfriesshire, part of Globus Group, is a significant local employer and one of the world’s fastest-growing manufacturers of personal protective equipment.

As a leader in the manufacturing sector, Globus Group has committed to a sustainable future, driving energy efficiency, recycling and re-use through our robust sustainability plan and a commitment to reach net-zero by 2027.

The KTP 

The new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project is set to develop an innovative process to recycle 10kg of plastic PPE waste every hour. The aim is to revolutionise how used plastic PPE is treated to turn the waste into a secondary raw material called pyrolysis oil, which can then be refined into new commercial products like new PPE products or fuels. 

Dr Aimaro Sanna, an assistant professor in chemical and process engineering at Heriot-Watt University is an expert in thermochemical conversion of biomass and waste material. He said: 

“We will be working closely with our commercial partner Globus Group to develop a bespoke process that will be applied to PPE plastic waste that cannot currently be recycled mechanically due to various technological, economic or ecological reasons. As the world strives to reduce its landfill, ocean impact and carbon emissions, this project is a significant step towards addressing the increased waste generated during the global pandemic.

“Initially the research will help to recycle over 100 tonnes of product generated by the manufacturing process every year – the equivalent to 10kg of waste every hour. However, our hope is that this new process will be adopted more widely. Many countries have been unable to process their plastic waste PPE properly. Our ground-breaking research aims to address these challenges providing an exemplar technique for application globally.”

Status of the project 

The project kicked off in October 2021 and is due to close in two years. The recent announcement of the project and the ambition from the company saw a tremendous response from the national press. Over 180 articles were published across the print, broadcast and online media including the BBC, The Daily Mail, The Guardian and others.

Jim Berryman, Knowledge Transfer Advisor, Innovate UK KTN added: 

“The commitment to provide a circular solution for 100 tonnes of PPE per year is hugely ambitious and is exactly the sort of innovation step we seek to support through our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships. Working in collaboration with the Alpha Solway factory and Heriot-Watt University will see us applying research expertise to address a significant environmental challenge, helping deliver the Globus Group’s net zero ambitions.”

About KTP’s

KTPs are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including Innovate KTN, Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme.

If you have an innovative business idea and would like to see if a KTP could help take it forward,  get in touch.

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