Chelveston Renewable Energy Park in Northamptonshire, UK, will soon see the UK's first carpet recycling plant to be fully powered with renewable energy. Innovate Recycle, which was awarded £2.4 million from the UK government's Better Building Fund in 2020, plans to save thousands of tons of waste carpet from landfill and incineration when it is operational.
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Carpet Repurposing with Renewable Energy for the First Time in the UK
Innovate Recycle's carpet recycling plant will be the UK's first such facility powered entirely by renewable energy sources. It is ideally situated, co-located with Chelveston Renewable Energy Park and its suite of wind, solar, and hydrogen energy production facilities.
The company's sustainability focus is a welcome addition to the emerging circular economy in the UK, helping the UK significantly reduce plastic waste without causing excessive CO2 emissions in the process.
Problems with Waste Carpet
Around 400,000 tons of waste carpet has to be processed in the UK every year. Typically, more than half of this is sent to landfill sites. The bulky waste carpet takes up significant space in landfills, increasing the solid waste risks like animal infestations and seeping toxic pollutants.
Some carpet remains are incinerated, with energy captured and used in industrial applications.
Waste carpet is also shredded and used as ground material by horse keepers and breeders. However, it is easily blown away when processed in this way, causing macro-plastic pollution in surrounding areas and waterways. As a result, recent UK government regulation has changed to reflect the environmental damage caused by macro-plastic pollution and the release of toxins into the environment.
These practices also waste the polypropylene in the disused carpet, which can be repurposed in a dedicated carpet recycling plant. Innovate Recycle's carpet repurposing method causes no environmental impact and reduces the demand for new plastic materials.
Innovate Recycle was founded by Joseph Eccleston, who had inherited his family's carpet business. Upon taking over, Eccleston was struck by how large the waste carpet problem was, founding Innovate Recycle to tackle this significant environmental problem directly.
Initially, Innovate Recycle's carpet recycling plant will receive large volumes of polypropylene-based carpets. Polypropylene will be extracted from the carpets mechanically and then recycled and converted into fiber and pellets.
Recycled polypropylene pellets can be sold to several sectors, including those in the automotive, manufacturing, and construction industries. Recycled carpet plastic can later be used in battery cases, buckets, and water butts; pellets can make feedstock for 3D printing.
Innovate Recycle's carpet repurposing technique is unique. The company believes it can produce quality high-recycled plastics that will withstand multiple recycling processes without degradation – resulting in a high-quality plastic feedstock each time it is recycled.
Innovate Recycle is working towards a future circular economy, in which materials are no longer wasted but continue to have useful purposes after their initial lifetime.
The company is responding to the UK government's (and other governments') recent policies regarding the circular economy and the environment. These include a proposal to make 30% of all plastic packaging from recycled content from 2022, which will require quality pelletized recycled material like that produced in the new facility.
By aligning with the emerging circular economy, Innovate Recycle is also well-poised to capitalize on future advances in products and development using recycled materials.
Chelveston Renewable Energy Park
Co-locating the new carpet recycling plant with a suite of renewable energy companies in Chelveston Renewable Energy Park has made it simpler for Innovate Recycle to power their plant using fully renewable energy sources.
Although, it has met some local resistance from residents, such as opposition to the sight of wind turbines and solar panels on their drives home from work. Others expressed concern over disruption to roads and infrastructure caused by the increase in freight transportation from the park. Still, Chelveston continues to contribute to the UK's climate ambitions.
The park is home to nine wind turbines, each 125 m tall with a 25.7 MW capacity. 250,000 solar panels are also housed on the site, with 60 MW installed capacity between them. Another 150,000 solar panels are planned, adding another 60 MW of installed capacity.
A 10 MW on-site hydrogen production plant uses this renewable energy to fuel a fleet of converted vehicles. Power is exported to the UK national grid through an 80 MWh export grid connection. A 26 MWh import grid connection provides backup and reinforcement. A 20 MW lithium-ion battery store is housed here for load shifting and frequency response. A 47 MW peak lopping plant is included on the site as well.
By 2022, the Chelveston Renewable Energy Park will produce 175,000 MWh of renewable energy each year - enough to power over 60,000 residential buildings in the local area.
Next Steps for Innovate Recycle
Innovate Recycle will initially process up to 20,000 tons of carpet waste per year in the renewable carpet recycling plant at Chelveston. They will also work with councils, businesses, and the carpet industry to acquire waste carpet material in the local area. Later, Innovate Recycle intends to expand to more sites around the UK and increase its capacity to include more types of waste carpets.
References and Further Reading
Bagley, A. (2021) Building under way at Chelveston Renewable Energy Park as £2.35m carpet recycling plant takes shape. [Online] Northantstelegraph.co.uk. Available at: https://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/people/building-under-way-at-chelveston-renewable-energy-park-as-ps235m-carpet-recycling-plant-takes-shape-3327329
Innovate Recycle (2021) Innovate Recycle | Costs LESS than sending carpet to landfill | Our unique solution is a breath of fresh air. [Online] Available at: https://innovaterecycle.co.uk/
Chelveston Renewable Energy. (2021) Home. [Online] Available at: https://chelveston.com/
Chelveston-pc.gov.uk. (2021) Chelveston Renewable Energy Park. [Online] Available at: https://www.chelveston-pc.gov.uk/chelveston-renewable-energy-park.html