How to use recycled materials and products
Raw materials are an important aspect of many businesses, particularly those that carry out manufacturing and construction activities.
There are now recycled alternatives to many products and resources your business uses. These could help you to cut your costs and reduce your impact on the environment. Creating goods and services from recycled materials could also enable you to market your products as having less impact on the environment.
This guide outlines some of the ways that you may be able to use recycled plastics, glass, aggregates, paper, organics, plasterboard and tyres in your business, as well as the potential benefits of doing so. It also highlights key standards that enable you to check the quality and sources of recycled materials.
Recycled plastics as a resource
As the UK's recycling targets rise, recycled plastics are becoming increasingly available.
How to use recycled plastics in your business
You can use recycled plastic in just as many ways as prime or virgin plastic, including in:
- Packaging - recycled polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high density polyethylene (HDPE) can be used in primary packaging by retailers and branded manufacturers for bottles and trays. However, it must be approved for use with food .
- Construction products - eg damp proof membrane, drainage pipes, ducting and flooring, scaffolding boards and kerbstones.
- Landscaping - walkways, jetties, pontoons, bridges, fences and signs can be made from recycled plastic due to its durability, low maintenance and resistance to vandalism and rot.
- Textile fibre and clothing - polyester fleece clothing and polyester filling for duvets can be made from recycled PET bottles (eg soft drink and water bottles).
- Street equipment - furniture, seating, bins, signs and planters can be made from plastic. These can be cheap to produce and are resistant to vandalism.
- Bin liners and refuse sacks - plastic film can be made into new film products such as bin liners, carrier bags and refuse sacks.
- Other uses - eg traffic management products, automotive products, stationery and industrial strapping.
Advantages of using recycled plastics
There are many benefits of using recycled plastics, both for your business and the environment. These include:
- lowering the cost of materials
- marketing and PR opportunities associated with reducing your environmental impact
- making your business ready to comply with future legal measures, such as packaging taxation
- reducing your dependency on commodity plastic pricing
The environmental benefits of using recycled plastic include reducing the:
- volume of waste going to landfill
- amount of oil used for plastic production
- amount of energy consumed
- CO2 emissions associated with the product
Standards and quality protocols for recycled plastics
You should look for recycled plastics that have been produced to the requirements of recognised standards and quality protocols. These will help you to ensure you are buying good quality materials.
Recycled glass as a resource
How your business can use recycled glass, what the benefits are, the quality standards and where to source it
Glass can be recycled repeatedly, so it offers good opportunities for use as a recycled material.
How to use recycled glass in your business
- container manufacturing - remelting glass to make new glass products (for clear, green or amber glass) is highly efficient with no loss of quality or physical properties - remelting the glass offers the best environmental benefits for recycling glass
- insulation - recycled glass can be used in fibreglass insulation in buildings, and mixed colour container glass or flat glass cullet can be used - again there are significant environmental benefits
- brick manufacturing - powdered glass can be used as a 'fluxing agent' in brick and tile manufacturing
- water filtration - recycled glass filter methods can be used to filter drinking water, waste water and swimming pool water outperforming traditional sand filters
- grit blasting - glass grit (recycled glass particles) can be used as a non-toxic alternative to traditional grit blast abrasives, which are used to prepare surfaces before they are painted or repaired
- concrete and cement - recycled glass can be used as a natural sand replacement in cement and concrete-based products
- sports turfs - processed sand (recycled glass) can be used in golf bunkers and top dressing for sports fields as an alternative to sand
- unbound aggregate - crushed glass is suitable for use in applications requiring volumes of unbound aggregate, such as road construction
Advantages of using recycled glass
There are many benefits of using recycled glass, both for your business and the environment. Recycling glass can benefit your business by:
- reducing the cost of materials
- improving the reputation of your business and increasing brand loyalty - demonstrating to your customers, consumers and investors that you have a real commitment to corporate social responsibility and the environment
Using recycled glass instead of newly produced glass does not reduce the performance, physical properties, storage stability or visual appeal of the product.
Environmental benefits of using recycled glass include reducing:
- the volume of waste sent to landfill
- CO2 emissions
- the energy and natural resources required to make new glass
Standards and quality protocols for recycled glass
If you intend to use recycled glass products in your business, it should conform to certain standards. These standards can also help you identify good quality recycled products.
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 101 provides guidance for businesses collecting and delivering recovered container glass or 'cullet'. PAS 101 contains a four-tier grading system.
PAS 102 provides guidance for businesses producing processed glass as a granular media for manufacturing, sports and water filtration applications.
WRAP and the Environment Agency have produced a quality protocol for flat glass to set out approved standards for recycled flat glass - download the quality protocol for flat glass (PDF, 204K).
Recycled and secondary aggregates as a resource
Recycled aggregates come from reprocessing materials that have previously been used in construction including recycled concrete from construction and demolition waste material. Secondary aggregates are by-products of other industrial processes that have not previously been used in construction.
How to use recycled aggregates in your business
You can use recycled and secondary aggregates (RSA) in many different applications including in:
- bituminous (asphalt) road construction
- ground improvements
- earthworks - cuttings and embankments
- utilities reinstatement
- shallow and deep foundations
- buildings - residential and industrial
- geosystems - composite systems that work in the ground, such as for retaining walls and landfill applications
Construction materials which use RSA include:
- concrete - coarse and fine aggregates mixed with cement and water
- bituminous - coarse aggregate mixed with fine aggregate filler
- hydraulically bound - aggregates which set and harden when added to a binder material and water
- unbound materials - materials ranging in size from fine grains to stony material
Advantages of using recycled and secondary aggregates
There are many benefits of using RSA, for your business, the environment and the local community. Business benefits of using RSA include:
- cost savings over new (virgin) aggregates
- reducing the costs of transporting aggregates if recovered materials are available locally
- lowering your costs and shortening the timescales associated with some construction techniques, eg 'crack and seat' in road maintenance
Using locally sourced RSA can also have environmental and social benefits, including:
- conserving natural resources by reducing (or eliminating altogether) the demand for virgin materials
- reducing energy consumption, transport emissions and disposal of waste to landfill
- creating educational opportunities
Quality protocols for recycled and secondary aggregates
The quality protocol for the production of aggregates from inert waste sets out quality standards for when aggregates have been fully recovered, ceased to be a waste and become a product.
Recycled paper as a resource
How your business can use recycled paper, what the benefits are, the quality standards and where to source it
The market for recycled paper is increasing as businesses come to realise the benefits.
How to use recycled paper in your business
There are many potential applications for paper with high recycled content, including:
- magazine publishing and printing industries - only a small fraction of the 1 million tonnes of paper used each year for magazine publishing contains recycled content
- corrugated flutings
Advantages of using recycled paper
Using recycled paper has several benefits both for your business and the environment because it:
- reduces the need for raw virgin pulp
- is equal in quality to paper from virgin forest sources
- is readily available
- demonstrates your business is committed to sustainable procurement
- reduces the volume of biodegradable waste sent to landfill
- reduces energy use and CO2 emissions
- increases your business' environmental credentials and supports a corporate social responsibility agenda
Recycled organics as a resource
How your business can use recycled organic materials such as compost and biofertiliser, and the quality standards
Organic waste - eg 'green' and food waste - can be turned into products such as compost and biofertiliser by processes including composting and anaerobic digestion.
How to use recycled organic material in your business
You can use recycled organic material that has been composted in various applications, including:
- soil conditioner
- topsoil constituent
- turf dressing
Anaerobic digestion produces biogas, a source of renewable energy. You can use biogas:
- to generate electricity
- to generate heat to power on-site equipment
- as excess electricity exported to the national grid
- as an injection to the gas grid
- as a vehicle fuel
Another by-product of anaerobic digestion is biofertiliser. This is rich in the nutrients required for healthy plant growth and fertile soil.
Advantages of using recycled organic materials
Using recycled organic materials can benefit your business in a number of ways, including:
- reducing your overall material costs
- improving your reputation as a user of recycled materials
- ensuring that you comply with existing and future legal requirements
The use of compost can also:
- help farmers meet soil management standards required for the Single Payment Scheme - see our guide on the Single Payment Scheme
- provide valuable nutrients to soil by improving yield
- increase soil organic matter and water holding capacity
Standards and quality protocols for recycling organic material
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 100 on producing quality compost describes the recommended composting process including:
- how compost is made
- the materials which can be used
- quality controls
- how compost should be labelled
PAS 110 performs the same function for fertilisers and other products produced by anaerobic digestion.
The quality protocol for compost sets out the standards for using biodegradable wastes to produce quality compost, and when it is no longer classed as waste.
The use of compost can also:
- help farmers meet soil management standards required for the Single Payment Scheme - see our guide on the Single Payment Scheme (SPS)
- provide valuable nutrients to soil by improving yield
- increase soil organic matter and water holding capacity
Recycled wood as a resource
How your business can use recycled wood, what the benefits are, the quality standards and where to source it
Using recycled wood conserves natural resources by decreasing the demand for new (virgin) materials. Products can be made entirely from waste wood or contain a proportion of new (virgin) material such as wood chip or wood shavings.
How to use recycled wood in your business
You can use recycled wood to manufacture a range of quality products for different markets, including:
- landscaping products - mulches, surfacing material for pathways and play surfaces
- equestrian products - equestrian surfaces such as indoor and outdoor arenas, and paddocks
- animal products - wood fibre bedding surfacing for horses, poultry and cattle, and cat litter
- energy - fuel chips and pellets
- sports surfaces
- soil remediation
- plant beds and walkways
- wood panelboards
Standards for recycling wood
You should ensure recycled wood products have been assessed to identify contamination from substances such as arsenic and copper based preservatives. There are currently no quality protocols for the treatment of wood waste. You should therefore ensure you use a reputable supplier.
Recycled plasterboard as a resource
How your business can use recycled plasterboard, the benefits, the quality standards and where to source it
Plasterboard waste from construction offcuts can be recycled and the gypsum and paper recovered if it is free from contamination.
How to use recycled plasterboard in your business
You may be able to use recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard in a variety of applications which currently use gypsum from natural or synthetic sources including:
- concrete construction products
- lining for walls and ceilings
- forming structures such as partitions
- soil improver
Advantages of using recycled plasterboard
Using recycled gypsum from plasterboard is beneficial to your business and the environment because it:
- reduces the volume of waste sent to landfill
- reduces your costs
- increases your business profile and commitment to corporate social responsibility
UK plasterboard manufacturers and WRAP have signed up to the Ashdown Agreement to:
- reduce plasterboard waste to landfill
- increase plasterboard recycling
The voluntary agreement is reviewed annually to evaluate progress against its targets.
Standards and quality protocols for recycling plasterboard
If you are sourcing recycled plasterboard to use in your business, it should conform to certain standards. This will help you choose good quality recycled gypsum.
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 109 sets out the specification for the production of recycled gypsum from waste plasterboard. PAS 109 covers the:
- selection, receipt and handling of input materials
- specifications of product grades
- storage, labelling, dispatch and traceability of products
- requirements for quality management systems to ensure it is fit for intended use
The quality protocol for recycled gypsum sets out the standards that gypsum needs to meet for it not to be classed as waste.
Where to source recycled plasterboard
There are a number of businesses that recover gypsum from used plasterboard and manufacture new plasterboard from this recovered material.
Recycled tyres as a resource
How your business can use recycled tyres, what the benefits are, the quality standards and where to source them
Tyres under a certain size and shredded tyre material are banned from landfill, so there is likely to be a regular supply of materials from reprocessed tyres.
How to use recycled tyres in your business
You can use tyres or derived materials for a number of different applications including:
- construction - eg roof tiling, acoustic barriers and waterproof membranes
- landscaping - eg paving, walkways and porous piping
- horticulture - eg mulches, composting and drainage infill
- civil engineering - eg sea defences
- retreading or reuse as part-worns
- playground facilities
- sports industry - artificial sports tracks and sports barriers
- flooring - eg carpet underlay and matting
- equestrian - eg surfacing
- landfill engineering
- fuel in cement kilns
- transport - eg traffic management, automotive parts and rubberised asphalt
Retread tyres are made from similar compounds and are legally required to be manufactured to the same strict performance criteria.
Advantages of using recycled tyres
Using recycled tyres is beneficial to your business and the environment because it can:
- reduce costs
- provide a sustainable, safe and durable alternative to new tyres
- reduce the numbers of new tyres needed which minimises waste
Standards and quality protocols for recycling tyres
If you are sourcing materials from recycled tyres to use in your business, you should look for those that conform to certain standards. This will help you buy good quality materials.
Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 107 sets out standards for producing size-reduced tyre rubber from end-of-life tyres.
PAS 108 was developed in collaboration with the tyres reprocessing industry and provides a specification for producing compact tyre bales for use in construction.