Recycled glass revolutionising wastewater management

The economic and environmental benefits gained from using recycled glass in wastewater treatment are too good to be overlooked, according to New Zealand company EMS.

EMS specialises in the design and installation of onsite effluent management that serve domestic homes, Maraes, schools and camping grounds. Until recently, they offered packaged treatment plants that were imported from Europe.

Director Steve Crockford says EMS is always looking to improve sustainability and environmental outcome and importing packaged treatment plants from the other side of the world ‘never sat right’ with him.

They were very expensive, they caused a huge carbon footprint, and supply chain issues during Covid created so many problems that an alternative solution needed to be found.

In the past, sand had long been used as a filter media in wastewater treatment plants. The sand provided excellent filtration of effluent and a large surface area for the bacteria that consume the contaminants in wastewater to live on. This method of wastewater treatment is known as trickle-down filtration.

While sand may seem plentiful, there’s a global shortage. Sand is the second most used resource in the world after water, and dredging, processing, and transporting it causes its own environmental problems.

“It was during one of our team discussions that the option of going back to using sand systems to replace the imported units was raised. One of our team suggested why not consider recycled glass instead of sand?”

Immediately Steve went hunting for a local recycled glass manufacturer and found 5R Solutions. Steve was able to see the product first hand and was thrilled to realise they could use the same design principles as sand from “the old days.”

“Using the 5R recycled glass follows exactly the same design principles as sand filtration except we have replaced the filter sand with recycled glass. The glass particle size is exactly the same as filter sand.”

While still in its early days, the introduction of the glass has worked seamlessly and the difference glass has made for their sustainability efforts has been revolutionary, says Steve.

“It’s been fantastic on all points for quality and consistency of product, lower carbon footprint sustainability and cost-effectiveness. It is particularly pleasing to be using a NZ made product versus an imported solution.”

“We are using an already recycled waste product and repurposing it to create even further environmental improvements, so it is a win on all fronts.”

The advantages don’t just stop at environmental sustainability. EMS has reduced costs by using locally sourced products and are no longer affected by shipping delays.

“The real value for us is that this product contributes to our company philosophy of recycle and reuse. We are always searching for ways to do better and now we get to use a product that does exactly that.”

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