Throw-away idea proves a winner

Manufacturer of the best green product award winner: Econoplas

IT sounds like the perfect business model.

Take a waste product most firms are so desperate to get rid of they will give it away for free, and turn it in to an innovative and environmentally-friendly drainage system which can be sold around the world – reducing CO2 emissions in the process.

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Such is the story of Aquadyne, an eco-product designed and manufactured by Scarborough-based research and development firm Econoplas.

Basically a system of metre-long porous planks which are installed beneath turf to allow water to drain away, Aquadyne is now being used by golf courses, sports pitches, national parks and at countless other locations.

Each and every plank is made entirely from recycled plastics which would otherwise have been sent to landfill, meaning Econoplas is effectively reducing CO2 emissions with every system it produces.

The concept was dreamed up and developed by managing director John Gaskarth, who has a background in the plastics industry but also runs a farm near Scarborough.

"I was basically looking for a solution to drainage issues on my farm," he said. "I solved that problem and then began looking for the cheapest raw materials to use. At that time, it was farm plastics – poly-band from bails of straw, silage wrap, that kind of thing."

Recycled plastics, of course, have become a significant market in the 21st-century global economy, but most recycling firms are only interested in purchasing bundles of a single types of plastic – single polymers – rather than the mixed plastics which make up many household or industrial products. Recycling plastics, therefore, often requires a sorting process which can be more costly than the end product.

"We produce four million tons of waste plastic in this country every year, and we only recycle 10 to 15 per cent of that," Mr Gaskarth said.

Crucially, however, Aquadyne is made from mixed plastics, a waste product firms often end up having to pay for to be landfilled. The enviable result for Econoplas is that it receives all its raw materials for free.

"People are just desperate to get rid of it," Mr Gaskarth said.

Scientists from Newcastle University have audited the firm and calculated that for every ton of Aquadyne produced, the equivalent of two tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved by reusing plastics that would otherwise have been landfilled, Mr Gaskarth added.

"We have a positive impact on carbon emissions, and that includes the low-carbon production process," he said. "Every time our

guys begin work in the morning, we are reducing emissions."