Researchers from Glass Technology Services (GTS) have found that using waste ash from biomass power plants can replace up to a fifth of the mined and man-made raw materials used to make glass.
According to British Glass, UK biomass power plants currently product more than one million tonnes of waste ash each year.
From this, the researchers, working with Sheffield Hallam University, are exploring how they can make this process more efficient, by showing glass manufacturers that they can make quality glass using waste ash. This ash melts at a lower temperature, therefore saving energy costs, and reductions in CO2 emissions.
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This could provide a “massive boost” to the manufacturing of bottles and jars, float glass for windows, doors and the automotive industry, the glass fibre used in wind turbines and high-value ceramics, said British Glass.
The research showed that it also has the potential to cut carbon emissions and save the glass-sector millions of pounds annually by using waste ash.
Glass Technology Services is leading two collaborative projects in this area:
- Exploring ways to develop glass products for the coloured container glass sector funded by a £508,000 grant by BEIS
- Looking at how the ash could be used in a broader range of applications, with a £494,000 grant given by Innovate UK to do this.
Glass Technology Services innovation team leader Rob Ireson said: “Our research could mean potential savings to the UK glass industry of £1.6m a year in energy costs and CO2 savings of around 10%. Other benefits include less emissions, reducing the impact of mining and the amount of hazardous waste sent to landfill.
“As an industry we are already working hard to improve efficiency across all aspects of glass manufacture. The 2050 ‘Roadmap’ which the trade membership organisation British Glass has produced together with Sheffield Hallam University is leading the way for the sector. It looks at improving furnaces, and the design of the product being manufactured, whether that is bottles and jars or flat glass for buildings. We are also focusing closely on waste heat recovery and recycling.
“So, this is very exciting work. If by using waste ash from power stations we can cut down on carbon emissions, reduce the amount of energy needed, and also reduce the waste material we produce, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”