Living in a circular economy


Love it or hate it, we’d all like to know the secret ingredient that creates the bitter-delicious taste of marmite. You may be surprised to find out the tasty dark substance is made from live yeast, water, hop debris and beer, the by-product of the brewing process. When the first marmite factory opened in Burton-on-Trent in 1902, the city was acknowledged as capital of the brewing industry, with around 30 breweries in operation in the area. Sadly, there are now only a dozen breweries left in the UK, but the process of making marmite hasn’t changed. Who would have thought that a waste product could be used to create something that divides the nation if not the entire world?

The circular economy focuses on creating an industry that produces as little waste and pollution as possible. It is an alternative to the traditional linear model of take, make and dispose. While landfills and incinerators and still taking in more waste than the Earth can handle, there are a few sectors that are beginning to see the benefits of remanufacturing and reusing. Here Rob Holloway, customer relationship executive of obsolete components supplier, European Automation shares his three examples of the circular economy in industrial applications.

Refuse vehicles

The current operational lifecycle of a refuse vehicle is just five years. While these vehicles usually only break down if they haven’t been maintained correctly, the fact that there is no legislation that requires operators to keep vehicle bodies serviced is drastically reducing lifecycles. If vehicles were maintained properly, their lifecycles could be increased by up to three times.

To combat the problem, the UK’s largest provider of remanufactured and quality used refuse trucks, Refuse Vehicle Solutions (RVS) has created a business model that takes refuse vehicles through four stages of life; new, quality used, remanufactured and parts.

After operating a new vehicle for five years, the vehicle is returned to RVS for a mid-life overhaul. It then begins the second stage of its lifecycle as a quality used vehicle. After another five years, the body is remanufactured and the chassis is taken to a specialist dismantling company where the parts are reconditioned. After being reconstructed, the vehicle returns for its third stage of life. When the body reaches its end of life, RVS dismantle it and reuse its functional parts. This allows the circular economy cycle to continue.

Recycling fluorinated gas

Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) are most commonly used to maintain temperatures in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment. Because these gases don’t damage the ozone layer, they are often used as substitutes for more depleting substances. However, F-gases are extremely powerful greenhouse gases, with a global warming potential up to 23,000 times greater than carbon dioxide.

To combat the environmental threat, the European Union has taken regulatory action by limiting the amount of virgin F-gases that can be imported into Europe each year. F-gases are a vital element of today’s industrial heating and refrigeration systems, so users must find an alternative to purchasing new products.

Recovery and recycling is one of the most effective means of reducing F-gas emissions and, as long as it is done in a safe and contained manner, it has no negative impact on the environment. This process purifies the used gases to the required standards so they can be used again. This continuous process complies with the principles of the circular economy, as products are not wasted unnecessarily, and the environment is protected from dangerous emissions.

Industrial symbiosis

Industrial symbiosis is the association between two or more industrial facilities, where the waste and by-products of one become the raw materials for another. A variety of products can be traded, including for example tyre shred, pellets or waste steam from a factory.

Increased costs of materials and energy for businesses are the primary basis for a shift towards this method of production, but the environmental benefits are also significant. Industrial symbiosis is known to reduce the amount of new resources being used and decrease the amount of waste generated without compromising economic activity. It’s also a major step towards a more sustainable world.

As well as the reduction in waste materials through industrial symbiosis, the concept has also been applied to other resources. An example of industrial symbiosis comes from one of the UK’s leading dairy producers, Arla Foods. After using substantial volumes of water on a daily basis for washing equipment, the company wanted to find an alternative to flushing this contaminated water down the drain. After looking into the issue, Arla realised that it was able to redirect the contaminated water to a nearby Severn Trent Water biogas plant, where it could be used as an input into the production process.

European Automation takes an active role in industrial symbiosis by purchasing parts from industrial plants that are closing down and selling them on to customers looking for obsolete or refurbished spares. The parts are fully functional but may need some time spent bringing them up to scratch. This method provides customers with a cheaper alternative to new products and decreases the amount of parts being wasted.

The circular economy is still a relatively new concept, but taking action now could save you money and improve the impact your business is having on the environment. The next time you’re faced with the decision of replacing a system, or discarding a piece of equipment, consider a more environmentally friendly option.

For further information contact:

Jonathan Wilkins, EU Automation
Unit 3, Parker Court, Staffordshire Technology Park, Stafford, ST18 0WP

Telephone: +44 (0) 845 521 3088

Press enquiries: Charlie Stroe or Adam Steele
1 St Mary’s Place, St Mary’s Grove,
Stafford, Staffordshire, ST16 2AR

Telephone: +44 (0) 1785 225416
e-mail: or

About EU Automation: EU Automation stocks and sells new, used, refurbished and obsolete industrial automation spares. Its global network of preferred partner warehouses, and wholly owned distribution centers, enables it to offer a unique service within the automation industry, spanning the entire globe. It provides worldwide express delivery on all products meaning it can supply any part, to any destination, at very short notice.

Ref: EPA385/05/16




About Author

Comments are closed.