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Grit to gold: Zero Waste Scotland and Scottish Water join forces to recycle road runoff into valuable building materials

Zero Waste Scotland has partnered with Scottish Water to turn grit that is found in the waste water system into a valuable raw building material for the construction industry.

13 Jul 20

A trial project has successfully shown that the grit, which would otherwise be sent at a cost to landfill, can potentially be recovered and converted into aggregate for use in products such as kerbstones.

The project is an example of the circular economy in action as a waste product is transformed into something of value. In this case the grit is collected during the filtration process and recycled into a valuable material instead. The process also displaces the need to dig up virgin materials through energy intensive quarrying – resulting in an estimated carbon saving of more than 70%.

Louise McGregor, Head of Circular Economy of Zero Waste Scotland, said:

“We can greatly reduce our carbon emissions by capturing materials and seeing their true worth. This is a fantastic example of finding a use and value from a substance that was viewed as waste.

“We need to make the right decisions for the environment and the economy to lower our emissions and also create jobs and businesses that deliver a stronger, safer, fairer and more sustainable economy.”

A circular economy is one in which products, services and systems are designed to get more use of out of them and minimise waste. Instead of products being designed to last for a short amount of time, they are reused, repaired, remanufactured or recycled. There should be no waste in a truly circular economy.

Grit enters the waste water system from road runoff into sewerage catchments and then passes into waste water treatment works. As part of the Circular Economy Business Support Service (CEBSS), Zero Waste Scotland supported three Scottish SMEs from the aggregates production and recycling sector to determine the commercial viability of recycled grit.

Assessments by Levenseat, Thompsons Quarries and Brewster Brothers showed clear cost and carbon savings through resource efficiency, particularly in the form of transportation and landfill.

The next step will be physical trials where waste water grit will be put through a series of physical and chemical tests to determine whether it meets strict ‘end of waste’ criteria. The overall aim of the project is to design a process whereby all business can take advantage of grit recovery.

Tamsyn Kennedy, environment program manager in research and innovation at Scottish Water, said:

“Scottish Water is committed to reducing the impact we have on the environment, and finding innovative ways to reuse our waste products to support a flourishing Scotland. Grit from wastewater treatment is a great example of something we routinely remove during our treatment processes that can have a valuable second life. Repurposing it will also save waste from landfill and contribute to meeting our net zero emissions target.

“This ongoing project has been a great opportunity to work with Zero Waste Scotland and SEPA towards Scotland’s Circular Economy goal, as well as collaborate across teams within Scottish Water such as Research & Development, Regulation and Waste Management. We hope this is the first of many products we can recover from our day to day operations that can be safely and beneficially used in other Scottish industries.”


Notes For Editors

Editor’s Notes:

About Zero Waste Scotland

Zero Waste Scotland exists to lead Scotland to use products and resources responsibly, focusing on where we can have the greatest impact on climate change. 

Using evidence and insight, our goal is to inform policy, and motivate individuals and businesses to embrace the environmental, economic, and social benefits of a circular economy. 

We are a not-for-profit environmental organisation, funded by the Scottish Government and European Regional Development Fund.

More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/. You can also keep up to date with the latest from Zero Waste Scotland via our social media channels - Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn

The Scottish Government is the Managing Authority for the European Structural Funds 2014-20 Programme. For further information visit our website or follow @scotgovESIF.


About the Circular Economy Business Support Service (CEBSS)

Zero Waste Scotland’s Circular Economy Business Support Service delivers tailored, expert, one-to-one consultancy directly to small and medium sized businesses across all sectors in Scotland.

Businesses and organisations can use the service to develop and/or implement new businesses models, technologies, practices or services that incorporate circular principles.

Businesses interested in receiving support or finding out more can call us on 01786 433930 or complete the form on the Zero Waste Scotland website: https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk/circular-economy/business-support-service.


About Scottish Water

Scottish Water delivers vital water and waste water services which are essential to the daily lives of 2.56 million households and over 152,800 business premises to support a flourishing Scotland.

The utility delivers 1.44 billion litres of clear, fresh drinking water and removes 983 million litres of waste water which it  treats, recover resources from and returns safely to the environment.

Its focus is on delivering an excellent service, providing great value for money, and reducing its effect on the environment.


For media enquiries contact:

Sophie Thirkell, Press Officer, Zero Waste Scotland

Mobile: 07966 284095

Email: sophie.thirkell@zerowastescotland.org.uk

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