Sorpa Develops New Technology Disposing of Organic Waste

Ýmir Technologies is well on its way to developing equipment capable of disposing of organic waste in a sustainable and much more efficient way than before.

Ýmir and Sorpa recently signed a development agreement to explore and implement new ways of recycling waste. This new equipment will reduce the need to transport waste long distances for recycling.

“This is an exciting and important experiment in new equipment here in Iceland. We at SORPA want to encourage innovation in the field of recycling, and with this experiment we are working with challenge of composite waste, which is often difficult to recycle in an efficient way. This experiment aims to extract important bio-waste, which is an important resource and recyclable material, from mixed waste. We hope that the project can solve the various problems we are facing,” says Jón Viggó Gunnarsson, CEO of Sorpa.

Glued, painted and/or plastic-coated timber is a difficult-to-treat waste that, for example, cheap mass-produced furniture eventually turns into. Such material is among the most difficult waste categories that processing plants such as Sorpa face when it comes to avoiding sending waste to landfills. ÝMIR is developing technology to manage such waste through pre-treatment–using microorganisms with the ability to break the material down into valuable components ​​such as biogas or industrial alcohol.

Sorpa entered into a cooperation agreement with Ýmir last year, to begin a detailed study of how feasible it would be to process waste in this way. With the construction and installation of technical equipment the first phase is now complete. The next phase will operate over a period of a few month at Sorpa’s Álfsnes site and will involve an experimental processing plant for dry waste streams.

Another example of a problematic waste category that that needs to be addressed is disposable moisture-proof hygiene products, also known as nappies or disposable diapers. The equipment used to handle them has sometimes been called the “diaper ban”, but such waste is a big problem all over the world. The diaper mountain ranges of the world are extensive with about 10,000 tonnes a year being produced in the Reykjavík area alone. They don’t disappear once they’ve been buried, but rot and produce gasses such as methane, which are many times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

Ýmir Technologies designs and builds machine sets for waste pre-processing to facilitate recycling. Their methods of dealing with this involve subjecting the waste to pressure, steam and heat. By abruptly relieving the pressure once the steam has penetrated the organic elements of the material, the thermosetting part of the material breaks down into much smaller molecules such as starch and sugars that are easily converted into valuable raw material through organic processing.

There is a big market for this kind technical equipment

“We are investing in the development and production of machines that can be used by waste disposal companies around the world to help them achieve greater success in recycling as well as increase the number of recycling centers worldwide. We aim to become to organic recycling what Marel managed to become as a primary food processor: a world leader in its field. The possibilities are endless, as there is a great awakening in the world in regard to how to make better use of organic material and reduce waste,” says Sigurður Ingólfsson, CEO of Ýmir Technologies about the project and the company.

“It is a great advantage, given our situation in this country, that Sorpa has high ambitions to pave the way for the circular economy, not least in terms of a smaller regional association. We therefore have the opportunity to take the initiative in developing methods that are suitable on a smaller scale due to our collaboration with Sorpa. Disposal of waste is, by its nature, an issue that primarily concerns the local environment. In most municipalities in the world there are stations such as Sorpa, many of which are of a similar size, although these municipalities belong to larger nation states. Despite this, in many areas there does not seem to be much emphasis on developing equipment suitable for these stations. In Europe alone, there are 2,000 such stations, so the group of buyers for our technical equipment has the potential to be quite large,” says Sigurður.

He adds that in addition, many industrial companies could be more successful and improve their environmental footprint by recycling their main waste themselves.

“This applies to salmon farming, for example, where there is often a large amount of dead salmon that is not used for feed production. Such companies could use the salmon oil to replace fossil fuels on the many ships they operate. Another example could be so-called pink slime, which is a high-fat waste from industrial degreasing. It is now disposed of with a horrible environmental footprint instead of cleaning the slime and reusing it along with the oil that remains in it, e.g. for biodiesel production. Our collaboration with Sorpa is invaluable and will most likely not only serve the needs of Sorpa and the local community here at home, but help the whole world in tackling this challenge that involves recycling difficult bio-waste,” says Sigurður.

Products of many years of research and technological development to come to market

“This spring, we are starting the construction of a biodiesel plant to process fuel for the consumer market from high-fat slaughter waste recycling, but before that we had developed the pre-processing part that creates the fat raw material from the waste. This was done in a similar collaboration with SORPA, as mentioned before. With the advent of this equipment, the slaughter waste will largely be converted into sustainable biodiesel fuel. ÝMIR’s production technology is new and can, within a few years, revolutionize this industry around the world if it succeeds. Harmful landfilling of this waste can be a thing of the past with this project.” Sigurður finishes by saying, “As far as the nappy ban is concerned, we expect that the results of our research project in collaboration with SORPA will be of such a nature that in 2-3 years the equipment will be ready for sale. If it works out, there is hope for a great demand for that technology all over the world.”