UCLan helps Recycling Lives convert vehicle scrap into energy

The University of Central Lancashire has partnered with Recycling Lives to create a process which converts scrap vehicle residue into renewable energy.

Preston-based Recycling Lives is the UK’s largest end-of-life vehicles processor and it is working with UCLan to create a way of transforming hard-to-recycle Automotive Shredder Residue (ASR) into energy and by-products, ensuring a reduction in waste sent to landfill.

A process called advanced thermal decomposition converts ASR waste into energy and generates by-products including char and combustible syngas. Char can be used to create green hydrogen, while residual char may be applied as a soil modifier, and ash as construction sector aggregate.

Recycling Lives, which employs more than 500 people across 20 UK sites, has been trialling an innovative thermal treatment plant, with the aim of having a production model operational later this year. Amongst other uses, the energy could potentially fuel the latest generation of emission-free vehicles and power site operations.

The final stage of the model will see banks of repurposed batteries from electric vehicles (EV) used to store renewable energy produced by the process, and power the purpose-built EV depollution facility at the 15-acre recycling park headquarters in Preston.

Professor Karl Williams, director of UCLan's Centre for Waste Management, led the two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) study. He said: “The KTP produced a thermal process transforming the residue into a saleable product and electrical energy; creating a recycling solution and removing waste sent to landfill.”

Gerry Marshall, chief executive officer of Recycling Lives, said: "Our new enhanced business model will make the company’s overall process cycle greener and more energy efficient. We have a long-term aspiration to reduce landfill significantly through the ASR recycling solution.

"This circular economy solution will extract maximum value from end-of-life vehicles, reducing waste and producing power and green hydrogen, benefiting the wider community and the environment."

The collaboration has been so successful that the University and Recycling Lives are continuing to work together on new opportunities.

Professor Williams added: "This is a fantastic example of what can be achieved when an organisation links with an academic institution, enabling us to transfer our academic research into an innovative commercial solution which is generating huge benefits for business, the environment and the wider community."