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Advanced separation: EMR’s drive to stop valuable materials reaching landfill

Anthony Marrett, Managing Director at EMR Invenens


If the UK is to achieve its sustainability targets in the decades ahead it will need to transition to a truly circular economy and significantly increase the recovery of precious resources.

As individuals and businesses across the globe strive to reach their sustainability goals, it’s the perfect opportunity to look at some of the advanced separation techniques that EMR uses to recycle materials sustainably and efficiently – ensuring they can play their part in the next generation of products.

EMR’s work to separate and recycle materials begins as soon as it arrives at one of the company’s 60 UK sites. Ferrous metals such as steel require very different processes than non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminium, and even precious metals. Elsewhere, EMR’s plastic recycling business MBA Polymers deploys some of the world’s most advanced processing technologies.

“Developing advanced separation processes means EMR can cut the quantity of material from our sites which ultimately goes to landfill,” explains Anthony Marrett, Managing Director at EMR Invenens. “Equally, our separation technology allows us to sell on materials with a very low carbon footprint to customers for a wide range of specifications for applications including new cars, electronics and construction.”

To focus on metal, producing high-quality recycled material involves a continual process of separation using traditional magnets and eddy current separators, but also over 100 other separation techniques across our various sites. This gradually allows EMR to refine the metals toward our target of low carbon furnace ready materials.

Anthony describes the process as being like the branches of a tree:

“Some of the removal techniques EMR uses can be quite simple but the sophistication comes with when and in which order you choose to utilise them. At each point there will be different lines for each metal like branches of a tree. As they break off, our teams are concentrating on separating the metals and removing unwanted material.

“On the copper ‘branch’ this could mean separating off trace amounts of ferrous or aluminium, for example. This continues until we’re able to deliver a recycled metal that meets our customers’ exacting demands,” Anthony adds.

The final product is then analysed and quality controlled by EMR’s laboratories to confirm the purity of the metal.

EMR has invested in new and better ways to separate both metals and plastics, to keep up with market expectations. These include cutting-edge technologies like robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“Our sites are supported by a research and development centre where we are able to trial various other separation technologies,” Anthony says. “Alongside our team of experts, we have graduate students working on cutting-edge science to ensure we’re constantly improving and innovating our separation technology,”.

One of the most exciting areas of innovation is in the use of data to maintain quality, find efficiencies and ensure the chemical make-up of the material EMR sells is accurate within the smallest of margins. And there is one area of research which EMR’s experts see as most promising:

“Data is becoming the most important element when developing new and advanced separation techniques. That means using the information from our laboratories to ensure our sites have the best information possible and that our research teams can find novel ways to use our existing separation equipment more efficiently.

As the demand for sustainable material grows innovation is key. EMR will keep developing and enhancing its processes further, enabling the business to preserve and recover more of our Planet’s valuable resources and to create low carbon products.