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Can onsite disposal system redraw waste landscape?

An on-site waste disposal unit no bigger than a large chest freezer and as easy to use as a washing machine sounds like a pretty neat piece of kit.

In fact it could re-draw the landscape of the waste disposal market in a number of key sectors - yet this is exactly what a UK-based company says it has created.  

As MRW revealed last month, Pyropure is set launch a product this year that will allow on-site disposal of non-recyclable organic waste in a unit which measures just 2 cu m.  

Companies have grappled for years with producing a technology to enable providers in a range of sectors, from retail to health to military, to dispose of their waste at source.

The theory is simple: disposal at source reduces transportation costs and related carbon emissions; allows on-site energy production; and offers customers complete ownership of their waste management processes.

However, in practice this is fiendishly difficult because of the need to compress the technology into a smaller sized unit in a package that is economically competitive with existing options.  

So will Pyropure prosper where others have failed and convince the industry and prospective customers that its model is a viable, cost effective and green alternative to the status quo?

The waste industry is keen to embrace the Hampshire-based company’s bid.

Chindarat Taylor, a director at consultancy Resource Efficiency Pathway, has extensive experience of the “advanced conversion technologies” involved in Pyropure’s model: gasification and pyrolysis.

The project represented a “very exciting opportunity” and its development would be closely watched by the industry, she told MRW. “The fact it is British-designed is also good news,” she added.

Nigel Mattravers, head of waste at Grant Thornton, added: “There is definitely a market for something like this but people have tried and failed before. It will be very interesting to see this product.”

One company that has made in in-roads in the field and could provide tough competition to Pyropure is the privatised research arm of the Ministry of Defence, QinetiQ  

The defence giant has already installed a mobile energy-from-waste unit on the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean vessel and is hoping to target the retail sector, including the major supermarkets, the health sector and facilities management firms with future models.

Jon Ryley, managing director of QinetiQ’s technology solutions group, said: “It will process 2,000 tonnes of waste per year and create enough energy to heat 300 homes or electricity for 50.”

However, early versions of QinetiQ’s model required two 20-foot containers to transport it, making it substantially bigger than Pyropure’s.  

Pyropure will also have to convince the green lobby, which has often railed against gasification and pyrolysis. But as the units divert waste from landfill, it is moving in the right direction up the waste hierarchy.

How the Pyropure system works

Pyropure’s “self-emptying waste bin” measures just two cubic metres and is designed to dispose of 15 to 20 tonnes of waste a year on site – avoiding the need for collection, transport and disposal.

The company’s newly-installed chairman, long-time industry expert Paul Levett, said the health sector would initially be targeted, after which markets such as prisons, cruise ships, military ships and major construction sites would be explored.

Through pyrolysis and gasification, offensive waste can be reduced to “clean carbon” and the heat recovered to produce energy, Pyropure’s chief executive Andrew Hamilton.

He said: “We do not ever combust the waste or the product of pyrolysis.

“We put the thin gas, principally carbon monoxide, through a unique catalyst system which converts it to clean CO2.”

“The key with our machine is it sits on a customer’s own site. There is nothing out there like this. We can offer customers a saving in financial and environmental terms.”

For a care home this could mean offensive waste and the associated odour, vermin and flies could be dispatched by a means the company said will be priced competitively with current disposal options.  

The machines will require “minimal operation training and expertise” and will be available either to rent or buy.

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