Waste to Resource Innovation Network (W2RIN) brings together academic expertise and practical waste management experience from the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Working closely with industry, W2RIN offer a range of services that support the transition to a zero-waste Circular Economy.

The principal of a zero-waste circular economy is based on the adoption of nature’s natural biological cycles, where the waste of a living entity becomes a unit of growth for another and so, where waste no longer exists. A transition from the traditional linear ‘take make use and dispose of’ to one of circularity, where one system feeds another. The changes that will need to take place to achieve this vision will be in part driven by policy and regulation and will require new business models, which will provide resilience in a world where resources are becoming scarce.  Key to the adoption of this new systemic approach is for businesses to understand the impact of their whole value chain from product design to procurement of materials and to end of life.

For this reason, W2RIN has established a cross-faculty network within the University to provide a collaborative, multi-sectoral approach to overcome the perceived barriers for this transition. The network uses waste management expertise and scientific rigour to provide scalable solutions to business to help achieve a more circular approach to the issues of waste and resource management supporting the bottom line, reducing environmental impact and benefiting society.

Research Areas include:

Physicochemical Analysis

Our research has focused upon specific challenges experienced in waste treatment facilities including Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT), Anaerobic Digestion (AD) and In Vessel Composting (IVC) plants. Our unique approach has included sampling, analysis and interpretation of conditions occurring in these facilities to inform appropriate treatment methods for technology breakdown (for example corrosion, mineral build up, etc.). Physical and chemical insights of these environments have prompted redesign of remediation methods, health and safety procedures, and helped provide recommendations for the optimisation of plant machinery. Our methods include, but are not limited to:

  • X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy
  • Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy
  • Gas Chromatography
  • Raman Spectroscopy
  • Inductively-Coupled Plasma/Atomic Emission Spectroscopy
  • High Performance Liquid Chromatography
  • X-Ray Diffraction
  • Voltammetry
  • Surface Materials and Engineering
  • Binary Imaging Analysis

Microbiological Analysis

Biological treatment of waste is common practice in the UK, particularly for municipal and compostable waste. One drawback of this is the deterioration of equipment via microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC), which can have significant detrimental economic effects for waste processing companies.  Our research has included the testing and analysis of samples to determine the causative microorganisms from these facilities and investigation of the microbial metabolic processes that lead to corrosion. This has informed the waste industry of the most appropriate treatment methods to prolong their processing facilities with significant cost saving benefits. Methods include:

  • Phenotypic and morphological identification of bacteria
  • Staining, microscopy, culture and biochemical testing of causative bacteria
  • Development of new, innovative culture methods to isolate bacteria involved in MIC
  • Molecular biological analysis (DNA profiling). Including DNA extraction, PCR of phylogenetic and functional genes, sequencing and analysis of molecular data using bioinformatics software.
  • Analysis of total microbial diversity using next-generation sequencing techniques

Biological Treatment of Water and Wastewater

The global wastewater industry has realised that conventional treatment of wastewater normally involves destruction of valuable resources. For example, oxidising organic matter to CO2 and water and producing an organic sludge, rather than reducing it to methane for use as a renewable fuel. It has been shown that full-flow anaerobic digestion could generate enough methane for a works to be self-sufficient in energy, especially as there would be less organic matter to remove during subsequent aerobic polishing. Recovery of phosphate from the treated wastewater would also help to conserve this valuable resource for re-use as a fertilizer. Enhanced treatment could render the water suitable for re-use in water-stressed areas.

Our research interest / expertise are in:

  • Biological treatment of water and wastewater
  • Fermentation and biocatalysis
  • Development and Optimisation of Expanded Bed Biofilm Reactor (EBBR) processes
  • Optimisation of bioprocesses using Factorial Experimental Design and Response Surface Methodology

Carbon Management and Climate Change

Every activity associated with the transportation, processing and disposal of wastes gives rise to significant carbon emissions. Given the urgent need to prevent dangerous climate change, and the progressive internalisation of the cost of carbon, waste management companies need to understand the full CO2 implications of their current operational activities. Drawing on a wealth of research and commercial experience across a number of business sectors and local authorities, MMU academics are ideally placed to offer the following services:

  • Carbon accounting: Identifying and quantifying the key sources of CO2 emissions associated with different parts of the business to establish a carbon inventory and footprint of the current business model.
  • Carbon management: Guidance on investment in new infrastructure, technologies and operating practices that deliver the most cost effective carbon reductions.
  • Training: Carbon awareness training for executives, management and operational staff is an essential pre-requisite to the development of an effective carbon management programme.
  • Climate change adaptation: It is now accepted that the climate is changing and that there is a need for all organisations to adapt this new environmental business threat. Staff from the W2RIC have developed a climate change risk assessment methodology that can identify key strategic actions required by an organisation along with timescales for investment.

Waste Strategies and Operational Efficiencies

Due to the complex processing methods used to treat various waste fractions, there is a significant scope to improve performance through operational efficiencies and process change. Our specific areas of expertise relate to: 

  • Waste analysis / solution providing / Waste minimisation audits
  • Masterplan waste strategy design
  • Contract management
  • Data Management and streamlining
  • Designing out waste
  • Transformation of Waste to products
  • Packaging regulation advice and solutions
  • Options appraisal for treatment technologies
  • Corporate Responsibility
  • Corporate Sustainability Reviews

Policy / Secondary Commodity Markets

In fulfilment of the flagship initiative, a resource-efficient Europe, the European Commission released the Circular Economy Package in late 2015. With the aim to increase the global competitiveness of Member States and encourage sustainable economic growth, the Circular Economy Package integrates the production and consumption of good/services alongside sustainable waste management and secondary material markets. Including amendments to current waste legislation, the Circular Economy Package has also advocated the commission of EU wide quality standards in acknowledgement of surrounding uncertainties for secondary raw materials. MMU can support organisations to align themselves to the principles laid out in the circular economy package, improve their environmental performance and adapt to changing legislation.

  • Guidance on achieving End of Waste classification against EU and UK criteria, assistance with implementation of existing and future WRAP quality protocols for secondary raw materials produced from waste streams.
  • Interpretation of EU and National legislation, particularly regarding the impacts of new and amended policies.
  • Assessment of current and alternative process/treatment methods in light of the Circular Economy Package and National policy.
  • Identification and exploration of potential secondary commodity markets for secondary raw materials produced from waste streams.
  • Application of scientific analysis to ensure conformity with relevant standards and specifications.
  • Training at all levels to comply with process and legislative change.

3D Printing with Waste Materials

It is estimated that there is approximately 8  thousand tons of plastic in the World’s oceans. Recent work has demonstrated that this plastic can be recycled into plastic 3D printer filaments. Our research is directed towards developing 3D printer filaments produced from waste plastic but with useful additives that add functionality such as conductivity, improved durability and strength and biocompatibility.

Key people

Research and Enterprise