Cordant, one of the UK’s largest security companies, have detailed how numerous unrecyclable uniforms were sustainably transformed. For a company that is keen to adopt sustainability principles throughout its supply chain, finding a way to dispose of 20,000 old uniforms was becoming a major challenge for Cordant’s management team.
This challenge was exacerbated by the fact that uniforms designed for security and other FM related duties are not suitable for general wear and so cannot be simply recycled. Some waste plants were happy to shred the uniforms and recycle the rags but many were not or didn’t have the right facilities so this left Cordant with a big dilemma – how do you sustainably get rid of 20,000 old uniforms? The only options available were landfill, incineration or to find a better alternative. Knowing that the UK has a massive landfill problem and costs to landfill are growing, the company’s directors did not want to succumb to this last resort and as traditional incineration is known to be damaging to the environment, they decided to recruit some expert help.
GPT Waste was commissioned to review the company’s supply chain and help find another way of eliminating the unrecyclable uniforms. The recommended option was to implement an innovative project that would turn the garments into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). This process uses new technology to capture the energy in non-recyclable waste and transform it into bricks or pellets that can be used to replace fossil fuels like coal or oil.
This project was an important choice for Cordant as every tonne of waste diverted from landfill eliminates 0.54 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from being emitted in landfill gas. This is a significant saving of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have processed a total weight of 1,846 kilogrammes to 1.846 tonnes of RDF (based on industry averages). The 1.846 tonnes would produce an approximate 6120k Whr. which is roughly how much energy is needed to power three small houses for a year or generate enough energy to power 55,000 kettles for an hour – that could make a lot of cups of tea! Whichever way you look at it this is a significant output in exchange for our discarded uniforms. By adopting this strategy, the recovery rate is also 100% or a 100% diversion from landfill, so our landfill rate is 0% that is fantastic. It’s far more productive than the other unsustainable alternatives available to us, ” said Edward Macfarlane, Managing Director, Cordant Security.
“We worked in partnership with GPT waste to analyse the most efficient and practical solutions. We learnt lessons from across the multiple sectors in which we operate. However, we found that the RDF method would be of most use to our own business by supporting our commitment to sustainability. As this solution is also saving us money, it is an all-round win for the business!” added Edward.
As the costs of landfill continue to rise, RDF technology is seen as an innovative solution to alleviate the environmental footprint of general waste. Cordant is now looking at building this project into its general uniform life-cycle programme and believes that other services companies might want to follow suit.