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The circular economy

Finisterre wetsuits from wetsuits

CALMARE has been carrying out research and working with businesses on Circular Economy projects since 2014. Since the start we have worked closely with the Business School at the University of Exeter to deliver workshops and projects together, with CALMARE providing the expertise to solve some of the technical problems that limit implementation of Circular business models when using polymers or composites.

In 2015 CALMARE jointly founded the Circular Economy Business Forum, a partnership to support the development of Circular Economy opportunities in the region with the backing of a wide range of business organisations. Since then the work that the University carries out collaboratively in this area has grown with the Business School now taking a lead on its evolving future, establishing The Centre for Circular Economy, and in 2017, The University of Exeter was designated as a Global Pioneer University by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

At CALMARE our work continues to focus on solving the technical issues, looking at material selection and formulations, design for remanufacture, reprocessing and remanufacturing, and in-line quality control (particularly important for tracing materials or controlling quality when using recyclate.)

The video above is an example of the wetsuit project carried out in collaboration with Finisterre (see Guardian article), for which some of the key findings were published in an Ecotextiles Finisterre Article - Wetsuit Recycling . The work on wetsuits continues, and there are currently masters student projects ongoing, with support from SrfaceTM, looking at different materials including natural rubber. 

Example projects include:

At CALMARE we are passionate about understanding wetsuits, how they perform and how we can make a more sustainable option. From working with Finisterre on a Knowledge Transfer Programme (funded by Innovate UK) to develop wetsuits from used wetsuits (see Ecotextiles Finisterre Article - Wetsuit Recycling ), we are now continuing our own research looking at durability and thermal performance of various wetsuit materials, with the aim to get scientific data that accurately compares the key performance criteria of the various options and helps consumers make an educated choice based on performance and sustainability. The ultimate aim continues to be the same as the initial concept behind the Finisterre KTP - to develop a fully recyclable wetsuit, made from natural or recycled materials. 

This project is developing novel lightweight composite sandwich panels, using recyclate, for medium and heavy goods as well as passenger vehicles. The aim is to make the panels recyclable, incorporate novel designs, and manufacturing process and investigate new circular business models. The project brings together experts from across the supply chain in order to provide an end-to-end solution and optimise design and manufacture of future automotive panels.

Funded by: Innovate UK 

Partners: Omnia, NCC, Tata Technologies, Arrival, Polymer Industries, Foresight Innovations

An EPSRC funded hub and network led by the University of Exeter's Business School, ExEMPlar will focus leading research activities on circular economy and plastics. By bringing engineering, environmental, economic, health, and social disciplines together, a coordinated approach to investigate impacts of plastics will result in the formation of novel and creative circular economies using regional demonstrators in the south west of England.

Project aimed at demonstrating the suitability of near-infrared spectroscopy for monitoring and detecting contaminants in the polyethylene recycling process.

Current monitoring techniques used in many other recycling techniques, tend to analyse the solid polymer feedstock and are not economically viable for high speed polyethylene recycling operations. This new technique uses near-infrared spectrosopy equipment with multivariate analysis and chemometricmodels to provide an early alert of non-compliance, that can be connected to an automated mechanical separation system. This will enable the production of higher grade recyclate, reduce product failures, production downtime and costs whilst increasing quality of end products.

Partners: British Polythene Industries, Aunir and Bruker

Funded by: Innovate UK