In the second half of the last century, plastic became a fundamental part of our lives — bottles, bags and containers — resulting in a surge in the production of plastic objects. According to UN figures, we produce 300 million tons of plastic per year. That huge amount has a major impact on our planet, particularly on the oceans. As a result, a major environmental concern in recent years is how to reuse this material.
Plastics vary widely in type and recycling approaches vary too. There is no single machine capable of recycling all plastics: they must be sorted on the basis of their composition. Consequently, some plastics are easier to recycle and have a higher market value. Conversely, some compounds are more problematic to recycle, so they are worth less and tend to be disposed of in landfills. The challenge, therefore, is to find a second life for materials of this type to ensure that they do not end up in a landfill. Ferrovial Services and Fundación para la Investigación en Etología y Biodiversidad (FIEB) have developed a solution of this type at the FIEB facilities in Toledo, Spain.
This NGO focuses on preserving wild fauna at risk of extinction. It breeds wild animals in captivity, and needs a very specific type of fencing for this purpose, which must be very thin but also strong. The Center of Excellence for the Environment saw an opportunity. Using a new treatment process, the company can now recycle worthless plastic waste to produce strong materials such as the fencing that FIEB needs. In fact, the resulting material is stronger and longer-lasting than the timber normally used for the fences.
A total of 300 meters of fencing have been produced, and 400 meters of plastic profiles, avoiding the disposal of 15 tons of plastic waste in landfills. A new lease of life for this plastic, while also contributing to preserving the environment.
Zero waste to landfill in the automobile industry
Another notable initiative in this space is the Zero Waste to Landfill project implemented by Ferrovial Services and Ford; as a result, none of the waste produced at the Almussafes (Valencia) plant ends up in landfills and, consequently, it can be reused. The Ford automobile plant in Valencia is one of the first plants in this industry in Spain to achieve zero waste to landfill, avoiding the disposal in landfills of 15,000 tons of waste per year.