As EMR invests more in the innovation of its processes and products, there is one man who is at the forefront of the company’s work in advanced recycling technology.
EMR Managing Director of EMR’s UK advanced separation business, Anthony Marrett, is somewhat humbler about his position in the business:
"Shredders take consumer goods like cars and white goods at the end of their lives and break them down into small pieces so we can more easily seperate metals, plastics and other materials. The metals are ultimately recycled via steel, aluminium and copper mills or metal refiners. The steel is relatively easy to separate as it is magnetic, but that leaves a big pile of other materials, such as non-magnetic metals, plastics, glass, wood and foam. These materials are from car interiors and plastic and glass from washing machines. That big pile is my responsibility," he says.
Anthony adds "Ten years ago much of this material would have ended up in landfill. More recently, the drive for sustainability and improved technology means we now view this material as an asset, with new processing technologies enabling us to recover increasing amounts of metals, plastic, stone, glass and solid recovered fuels."
On a day-to-day basis Anthony oversees EMR’s five UK separation sites, where the residues from the shredding process are processed to extract many different useful materials.
EMR’s zero landfill target and ‘Our Decade of Action’ sustainability strategy mean the company is always looking at ways to improve its processes.
"We built a research and development centre at our Birmingham site which has some impressive kit that allows our team to rapidly test new concepts and try things out. It’s a sandpit for new ideas,” he says.
“One of these new ideas led to us purchasing a couple of machines that were used in the manufacture of food. The way that we ensure that our products are clean and uniform isn’t that different to how food manufacturers separate bits that aren’t wanted, so we thought, ‘let’s see what we can do with them.”
Anthony says research and development work is taking on an increasingly vital role for EMR.
“It’s grown significantly over the last few years as we’ve recognised we need to find new ways of doing things to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. By doing so we create new value and can generate new products.”
And, while some of these ideas remain firmly behind closed doors at a development level, others are already having a major effect on the recycling industry.
These include the creation of a new supply chain for the re-use, re-manufacture or recycling of electric vehicle batteries and rare-earth magnet from electric vehicle motors through EMR’s participation in two research and development projects called RECOVAS and REAP.
Both of these projects are the result of collaboration with supply chain partners and academia, with Anthony saying it has been a priority to bring new perspectives and ideas into EMR in recent years.
“When I arrived, EMR was quite happy with what it was doing because it was a very successful business. But advances like the emerging market for green steel show how quickly the market is changing. When you have people coming into a business from other industries, they’re able to add new perspectives and say ‘well, we did things like this’ when a challenge comes along.”
It’s not surprising that Anthony understands the value of new perspectives as he spent his early career in the automotive industry, first as an engineer and then as a business owner.
In fact, working for one of the largest global recycling companies was never really part of the plan.
“I began my career in the automotive, working in operational and quality roles through to design, engineering and project management. I then started working for myself, growing a business that developed processes that were capable of producing unique products for customers needs.”
This business saw Anthony build relationships, not just in the automotive industry, but also in the electronics, aerospace, energy and medical sectors. “I had an opportunity to see how the very best high-end businesses worked and they were very demanding of us,” he says.
As EMR continues on its path towards net zero, this broad spectrum of experience has put Anthony in a great position to drive excellence, innovation and continuous improvement in the years ahead.