With the recent announcement of the UK government target to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and the ever-growing consumption of polymer goods, the waste sector must lead the way in the prioritisation of a circular economy. 60 million tyres are disposed of annually in the UK, which are often incinerated or shipped abroad. This adds to pollution and greenhouse emissions.

End of life tyres have been somewhat overlooked as a resource in the past, however, recycling them offers an opportunity to fast track the UK towards a circular economy. As Asia closes its doors to waste imports, there is adding pressure on the UK to process its own waste domestically. Development of technologies to do this creates an opportunity for substantial economic savings and reduction of national environmental footprint through truly sustainable rubber recycling.

BIG ATOM, a polymer recycling company serving over 500 customers in the North West and North Wales, is tackling the waste tyre issue face on. They are paving the way to revolutionising waste rubber and plastics recycling globally with a vision to create a circular life for all polymer materials. BIG ATOM is starting its mission by converting tyres destined for incineration into valuable feedstocks, including for new tyre manufacture.

Currently, the company is converting tyres into rubber crumb then sold to be processed into rubber surfaces eg. in roads and playgrounds, contributing to a circular initiative within the waste industry. Launched in August 2018, BIG ATOM’s Ellesmere Port plant has seen rapid growth, showing that sustainability resonates with local businesses.

Once depolymerisation plants are up and running, this chemical process will improve recycling efficiency by 20% compared to conventional methods. This technology has the potential to achieve environmental benefits saving 2.7 tonnes of CO2 for every tonne of polymer waste processed. That’s the same amount as the average UK household’s annual gas usage, or more than a flight from London to Bangkok.

BIG ATOM is a key link between the polymer industry and the circular economy vision. Fulfilling this vision has to start with consumer decisions on how to dispose of their waste. Local garages should rethink their waste management plans to contribute to the change.

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