IOM3 Sustainable Future Award winners announced
The winners of the IOM3 Sustainable Future Awards 2023 were announced at an awards ceremony on 2 November
Creating a sustainable future is arguably the greatest challenge of our time. Our current and future society depends fundamentally on materials that are responsibly extracted. The IOM3 Sustainable Future Awards, presented for the first time this year, offer a platform for knowledge exchange, promoting organisations and individuals that are advocating the need for greater circularity in the extraction, processing and use of natural resources.
The Enabling Net-Zero: Sustainable Materials & Technology award category was won by ARUP, SCS Railways JV, and the University of Leeds for their innovative approach to repurposing London Clay for use in HS2 project concrete mixes as a Portland cement replacement.
Nextek Ltd was the winner in the Circular Economy category for their cleaning process to efficiently and effectively clean and decontaminate post-consumer polyolefin films, with the aim to achieve circularity for food-grade films to reduce demand for virgin resin and improve recycling rates of flexible films.
Enabling Net-Zero: Sustainable Materials & Technology
Winner: ARUP, SCS Railways JV, University of Leeds
As part of the biggest infrastructure project in the UK – High Speed 2 (HS2) – enormous quantities of material are being excavated, approximately 5,000,000m3. The majority of this is London Clay and offsite disposal leads to significant CO₂ emissions and costs.
An innovative approach for high-value repurposing means the clay can be processed and calcined for use in HS2 project concrete mixes as a Portland cement replacement. The Portland cement in these mixes can be replaced with up to 70% calcined London Clay, while maintaining the onerous requirements for 120 years’ service life.
The proposed method reduces the carbon footprint of the significant concrete volumes that are going to be cast for HS2 and that of the excavated clay disposal operations by up to 70%.
Additionally, this technology can be transferred to other major infrastructure projects or mining operations across the UK where clayed spoils are generated, with immense potential to reduce waste generation, while promoting sustainable construction materials and self-sufficiency of the construction sector.
Winner: Nextek Ltd
The recycling of plastic films is greatly held back by the absence of a technology that can decontaminate post-consumer polyolefin films (LDPE, LLDPE, HDPE, PP) back into food-grade material. Existing processes use a mixture of aqueous or organic solvent washing, drying and thermal desorption. These processes are unable to reach food-grade compliance, yet are energy intensive and have a high environmental impact.
The vision of COtooCLEAN is to achieve circularity for food-grade films to reduce demand for virgin resin and improve recycling rates of flexible films. A unique supercritical carbon dioxide (ScCO₂) cleaning process can efficiently and effectively clean and decontaminate post-consumer polyolefin films to a food-grade status. ScCO₂ is a non-toxic, non-flammable and non-corrosive solvent that can selectively remove contaminants through use of co-solvents.
In a single step, the process targets the simultaneous removal of oils, inks, adhesives, labels and chemical contamination from post-consumer polyolefin films, while recycling the non-toxic solvent and separating the residues.
An independent panel of experts ensured that winners met a high benchmark of achievement.
Emma Wilcox CEnv FIMMM FCMI CMR
Chair, IOM3 Sustainable Future Awards 2023 | CEO, Society for the Environment
Cynthia Adu CEnv MIMMM
Sustainability Consultant, Accenture
Jude Allan MIMMM MInstPkg(Dip)
Chair, IOM3 Packaging Group
Sarah Connolly CEng MIMMM
Innovation Technologist, Innovate UK
Energy and Environment Analyst, BBC
Mark Miodownik MBE FREng CEng HonFIMMM
Professor of Materials & Society, UCL
Head of Materials & Nanotechnology, The Knowledge Transfer Network
Headline sponsor - Innovate UK
The 2023 Sustainable Future Awards are sponsored by Innovate UK, the UK’s national innovation agency. They support business-led innovation in all sectors, technologies and UK regions. They help businesses grow through the development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services, supported by an outstanding innovation ecosystem that is agile, inclusive and easy to navigate.