No material left behind

There’s a lot going on at Levenseat, with the recent acquisition of a new site at Falkirk and a number of projects in the pipeline, including a revolutionary ash-processing plant

It’s a fast-moving sector,” says Angus Hamilton, Managing Director at Levenseat, when speaking to Construction & Civil Engineering about waste management. “You have got to keep developing and innovating, otherwise you are going to get left behind.”

It’s a truth that the company knows well. Launched in 1986, Levenseat was founded at a time when waste management was dominated by landfill, with recycling initiatives barely off the ground. Its mission then, as it remains today, was to innovate – by identifying new opportunities to capture quality materials, which could then be recycled back into the manufacture of new products.

Fast forward to the present, and Levenseat’s success has seen the company amass a varied portfolio of operations, dealing with a wide variety of waste types, from segregated organic waste, to mixed household recycling, and commercial waste streams. Although landfill still accounts for a small segment of the company’s business, it’s one that is rapidly reducing as yearly advances in technology bring about successive step-changes in recycling and its possibilities.

“We either produce end products ourselves, or supply materials as a commodity, such as metals, plastic, or glass,” produce feedstocks for other processors or recover energy, whilst always adhering to the principals of the waste hierarchy. Angus elaborates. “We have an on-site power plant gasifier, capable of utilising waste material into fuel, and using that to produce electricity, which we then export to the grid, however by utilising front end sorting we recover as much material of value beforehand, making the best use of resources. Another area of our business concentrates on handling mineral-type materials, such as street sweepings, and converting those into aggregate or concrete products for sale back to the market. Ultimately, our philosophy is to try and get the greatest value out of the materials that we’re handling.”

It’s been an interesting few years for Levenseat. The arrival of Covid-19 brought about a significant shift in the ratio of the company’s material streams, with an increase in household and residual waste offset by a reduction in commercial waste volumes. With the UK’s emergence from its initial lockdown, demand surged once again, as construction across the country kicked back into action.

In 2022, however, those challenges are largely in the past. Instead, Levenseat has been celebrating a new development: the acquisition of a new Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) at Falkirk, purchased from Avondale Environmental.

“The site itself is a plant that was built over ten years ago, but has been mothballed for more than half a decade,” Angus explains. “In parallel, we’ve built up a lot of contracts processing bulky household waste, and construction and demolition materials, with our existing facility running at full capacity and reaching the end of its life. Therefore, this purchase represented the perfect opportunity.”

Following the purchase, Levenseat has announced a £4 million plan to upgrade the Falkirk facility, which is set to almost double the company’s current sorting capacity for this type of material. Turmec UK, a company with over 50 years of experience in the engineering and recycling industries, has been appointed to carry out the refurbishment and installation of new equipment at the MRF.

“We identified Turmec as a contractor who had a detailed understanding of the process and could make the modifications to the plant to suit our needs,” Angus indicates. “We’re now in the process of carrying out those upgrades, with the aim of having the plant operational by early 2023.”

As it sets to work on the development of its new facility, Levenseat is also looking forward to the next phase in its partnership with Recycleye. The UK-based technology company is growing fast, buoyed by its successful application of advanced machine learning, computer vision, and robotics technology for the commodification of waste.

“We’ve been working with Recycleye very closely, and we’re set to be one of the first installations of their technology in Scotland, so we’re excited to see that in action,” Angus confirms. “We have to keep looking at how we can improve and innovate, and Recycleye’s technology is one that certainly aligns with our needs as a business.”

Installation of the technology will allow Levenseat to move away from manual separation, reducing the associated risks to health and safety. “It’s a move towards a more automated approach, supported by a higher skilled workforce,” Angus adds. “We’ll also be looking to deploy similar technology at our Falkirk facility, once it’s operational.

“We’ve also been doing a lot of innovative work on ash processing, through which we’ve managed to secure end-of-waste positions for a number of different ash-derived products,” he continues. “We’re involved in commercialising a patented process for the recovery of hazardous ash – a big focus for our R&D department, and an area in which we are really leading the market.”

Among those ash-derived products is Levenseat’s flagship LEV-CO block, a highly adaptable large concrete block that offers the ability to build an easily removable, fully interlocking structure, on any level and sufficient load-bearing surface. “It’s basically a giant LEGO-style construction block, weighing up to 2.4 tonnes,” Angus tells us. “They’re a really flexible system for building storage bays, retaining walls, firebreaks, sound barriers, and more. Like all of our alternative products, one of the key benefits is the carbon savings you make in the replacement of virgin aggregate as well as conserving natural resources.”

The completion of its new Falkirk facility will remain a focus for Levenseat in the months ahead, but the company is also in the process of constructing an ash processing plant, in partnership with Innovative Ash Solutions. “The facility is designed to take ash from biomass and municipal waste energy plants, before treating it to remove hazardous properties,” Angus says. “That will then be converted into construction products, again replacing virgin materials and delivering significant carbon benefits as a result.”

As a ground-breaking project using patented technology, it’s a significant cause for excitement. “Beyond that, we have a number of potential projects in the pipeline,” Angus confirms. “In general, our goal is to continue looking at how we can maximise the recovery of value from our materials, extending their lifecycle and returning them back into a circular economy where nothing is wasted. That’s the ethos of the company.”

Services: Secondary material management