The circular economy

Finisterre wetsuits from wetsuits

CALMARE has been carrying out research and working with businesses on Circular Economy projects since 2014. Since the start we have worked closely with the Business School at the University of Exeter to deliver workshops and projects together, with CALMARE providing the expertise to solve some of the technical problems that limit implementation of Circular business models when using polymers or composites.

In 2015 CALMARE jointly founded the Circular Economy Business Forum, a partnership to support the development of Circular Economy opportunities in the region with the backing of a wide range ofbusiness organisations. Since then the work that the University carries out collaboratively in this area has grown with the Business School now taking a lead on its evolving future, establishing The Centre for Circular Economy, and in 2017, The University of Exeter was designated as a Global Pioneer University by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

At CALMARE our work continues to focus on solving the technical issues, looking at material selection and formulations, design for remanufacture, reprocessing and remanufacturing, and in-line quality control (particularly important for tracing materials or controlling quality when using recyclate.)

Example projects include:

We are excited to be working with Finisterre on a Knowledge Transfer Programme (funded by Innovate UK) to develop wetsuits from used wetsuits. Every two years, 650 tonnes of neoprene wetsuits are replaced, which is the equivalent of 31.6 London double decker buses. The aim is to develop a fully recycled and recyclable wetsuit, investigating options for materials, manufacturing and recycling processes, carrying out in-depth materials and industry analysis, developing new testing techniques and investigating remanufacturing and circular economy concepts.

This project is developing novel lightweight composite sandwich panels, using recyclate, for medium and heavy goods as well as passenger vehicles. The aim is to make the panels recyclable, incorporate novel designs, and manufacturing process and investigate new circular business models. The project brings together experts from across the supply chain in order to provide an end-to-end solution and optimise design and manufacture of future automotive panels.

Funded by: Innovate UK 

Partners: Omnia, NCC, Tata Technologies, Arrival, Polymer Industries, Foresight Innovations

An EPSRC funded hub and network led by the University of Exeter's Business School, ExEMPlar will focus leading research activities on circular economy and plastics. By bringing engineering, environmental, economic, health, and social disciplines together, a coordinated approach to investigate impacts of plastics will result in the formation of novel and creative circular economies using regional demonstrators in the south west of England.

Project aimed at demonstrating the suitability of near-infrared spectroscopy for monitoring and detecting contaminants in the polyethylene recycling process.

Current monitoring techniques used in many other recycling techniques, tend to analyse the solid polymer feedstock and are not economically viable for high speed polyethylene recycling operations. This new technique uses near-infrared spectrosopy equipment with multivariate analysis and chemometricmodels to provide an early alert of non-compliance, that can be connected to an automated mechanical separation system. This will enable the production of higher grade recyclate, reduce product failures, production downtime and costs whilst increasing quality of end products.

Partners: British Polythene Industries, Aunir and Bruker

Funded by: Innovate UK