Glasgow & West Scotland

Cash backing to 'remake' Scotland a waste-free economy

machine components before and after
Image caption Before and after pictures of machinery parts which have been remanufactured

Funding has been announced for nine Scottish projects designed to make things as good as new - or even better.

The cash is from the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture, supported by the Scottish government, to create a waste-free, "circular" economy.

Remanufacturing is a process that takes old but high-value products and restores them to an as-new condition.

In some cases, they are even better than when they were new.

Design flaws can be engineered out to make them better than they were in the first place.

The bottom line is that, compared to Scotland's remanufacturing sector, the Wombles are amateurs.

'More than recycling'

That's because making good use of the things that they find - the things that the everyday folks leave behind - may be good enough for Uncle Bulgaria and his colleagues, but remanufacturing goes further.

It is more than recycling or upcycling, more even than refurbishing.

Certainly more than giving something a quick polish and selling it cut price as B-grade stock.

A remanufacturer will go back to the absolute basics.

Alan Mitchell is one such specialist. He is managing director of The Turbo Guy, based in an industrial estate in Glasgow's south side.

When Alan started seven years ago his was a one-man business. Now he employs fourteen other turbo guys.

Image copyright The Turbo Guy
Image caption Remanufacturing engine parts at The Turbo Guy

"We're receiving second hand, either used or actually failed, turbochargers," he says.

"We strip them down, we inspect them, clean all the housings, clean all the parts.

"The second part of the production line is effectively replacing any worn or damaged parts, building the turbo up and with a couple of industry-specific machines we can then test them."

The end product has a good-as-new gleam and a warranty to match.

The same applies to the vehicle transmissions handled by Mackie Transmission Services in the east end of Glasgow.

'Cowboys out there'

They remanufacture torque converters which they guarantee for the lifetime of the vehicle.

Both Turbo Guy Alan Mitchell and Mackie's MD John Mackie agree they still have to convince some people that while the process may start with something second hand, the end product is not second best.

"The current legislation does not differentiate between a remanufactured product and second hand product," John says.

"There are lots of cowboys out there that will advertise something as remanufactured when it's not.

"It probably needs some additional legislation from the government to correctly describe a remanufactured product, which should be as good as new if not better."

Image copyright University of Strathclyde
Image caption Before the part is cleaned up...
Image copyright University of Strathclyde
Image caption ...and what it looks like after the team have got their hands on it

Those of us who have tried to save a bawbee or two by buying refilled printer cartridges rather than paying the sometimes eye-watering price of an authorised version have perhaps unknowingly availed ourselves of the remanufacturing sector.

But it goes far beyond that - and the turbochargers and torque converters of the automotive industry.

It's estimated remanufacturing is already worth £1.1bn a year to the Scottish economy.

The diversity of the sector is underlined by the range of projects just announced by the Scottish Institute for Remanufacture.

The Institute, based at Strathclyde University, acts like a dating agency between businesses and academics at universities across Scotland.

Mackie Transmissions will be working with Strathclyde to improve their remanufacturing processes.

The Turbo Guy is linking with Heriot-Watt University on a new project to remanufacture filters that remove particles from diesel exhausts.

Sims Recycling Solutions in Dumfries has formed a long distance relationship with Aberdeen's Robert Gordon University to improve ways of giving new life to that seemingly most disposable of consumer products, the mobile phone.

Strathclyde will be helping Glasgow Computer Recycling to improve the effectiveness of its re-use business. The university will also be working with Dundee based EagleiSystems to apply remanufacturing techniques to unmanned aerial drones, and with Turner Wind Services to repair and remanufacture wind farms.

The Irvine based recycling company CCL North is involved in two partnerships. With Edinburgh University they are aiming to create a process that will see a broad range of IT equipment re-used.

Image copyright CCL North
Image caption CCL North believes in the circular economy

And working with Menzies Distribution and Heriot-Watt University they hope to build on a pilot study in Glasgow that set up a secure collection system for small electrical and electronic equipment. In just three months it save more than a half a tonne of unwanted gadgets which would otherwise have ended up in landfill.

Jonathan Corney, Professor of Design and Manufacture at Strathclyde University, sits on the Institute's Board. He says remanufacturing could amount to a new industrial revolution.

For that to happen customer prejudice will have to be overcome and more products will have to be designed to be remanufactured rather than thrown away.

But Prof Corney is optimistic: "Everybody wins. You as a consumer will get a product that's cheaper.

"The environment wins because the energy costs and the raw material costs are much lower."

"And society wins because the remanufacturing jobs are highly skilled, hard to move, and should sustain long after other jobs have been automated."

He is a man for whom this is of more than academic interest. He is also a satisfied customer.

"My own car has got a remanufactured transmission in it. It was a fraction of the price.

"The remanufactured transmission was £200. The new transmission was going to be £800.

"So far so good."

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