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Treading a well-warn path

Last July the footpath at Anne Hathaways cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon was replaced with a material comprising industrial waste. Although most visitors to the house of Shakespeares wife will give little thought to the ground under their feet, the path linking the cottage to the orchard may well prove fascinating to those with an interest in recycling.

Finepath the material chosen for the project is made from granulated blast furnace slag, steel slag fines and specially selected quarry dusts rather than traditional cinders or wood. And yet it still looks like a cinder path. Crucially, this new material is tougher and more durable than the previous path, providing better support for wheelchair-users, who were unable to tour the gardens before the new path was laid.

Justly proud of this new product, Finepath is said to be the pinnacle of Tarmac Recyclings technological achievements since the company was created in 1997.

The new surface was developed in conjunction with British Waterways as a material for canal towpaths; previously, ash from power stations had been used but supplies had been running short. It also wanted a more durable surface material that would be easy to lay, which would not pollute the canals and would be solid enough to support foot and wheelchair traffic.

Tarmac anticipates that Finepath will prove popular for a variety of applications including towpaths, footpaths, golf courses and other places where there will be considerable traffic from pedestrians and cyclists.

Tarmac Recycling sees its activities as simply developing what people were doing 100 years ago, according to managing director Alan Sheppard.

Many years ago, most of what people used got recycled. Ash from fires, for instance, went into gardens and footpaths. Recycling in the 21st century needs a good deal more sophistication, he says.

For Tarmac, recycling became a serious commercial proposition again in 1996 when the Landfill Tax was introduced, charging £2 per tonne on disposals. People started to segregate their waste a lot more, says Sheppard, so it was in much cleaner condition.

Today, Tarmac Recycling is one of the largest UK operators in the recycled aggregates market. The company also provides waste management, composting and landfill management services. Its coverage is extensive, with a network of 23 recycling sites, four landfill sites and four that do both.

In product manufacture, Tarmac uses waste products from various organisations, including local authorities and manufacturers. It has an exclusive contract with steel-producer Corus for all of its slag waste in the UK.

In 2000, Tarmac Recycling introduced a quality control system for recycling materials; the company can now guarantee that the quality of its recycled products is just as high as primary materials. So, for instance, one lane of the M6 motorway in Cumbria has now been laid using foamed bitumen, another of the companys technological achievements, which reuses old road planning.


Experimentation is taking place in joint projects with various universities to extend the scope of what can be reused. Inert materials, such as brick, concrete, gravel and sands, are now relatively straightforward to recycle once they have been cleaned up. But Tarmac is also investigating the reprocessing of non-inert materials, such as plastic, cardboard and general household waste.

It is working on a Government-subsidised research scheme to see how plastic and tyres could be treated and reused as aggregates.

Tarmac Recycling is also involved in various joint-venture projects with some of the more forward-thinking local authorities, pooling knowledge to help meet increased recycling demands. The company has instigated an advanced research and development programme and has a 10-year strategy in place to keep us ahead of the pack and make us the largest aggregates recycler in the UK, according to Sheppard.

All leads to one conclusion: Tarmac understand

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