How local gas distributor is using old PPE to help heat homes

Date published: 04 February 2023

A new project launched by a North West firm aims to stop old PPE going to landfill – and instead potentially using it to help keep people warm in their homes.

Cadent, which manages the North West’s gas mains network and has a base in Hollinwood, has introduced the new scheme for its 900 operatives in the region, as well as its contractors.

It’s part of the company’s pledge to achieve zero waste to landfill.

Working with its personal protective equipment (PPE) supplier, PWS, and recycling specialist Shred Station, Cadent introduced the new project last week.

Hard hats, overalls, glasses, gloves, boots and more is deposited in five big bins positioned at Cadent depots – in Hollinwood, Garston, Worsley, Blackpool and Warrington.

This material would otherwise end up in landfill.

The intent is to turn it into products that can insulate homes, as well as provide feedstock pellets for power generation plants.

Plans are already advancing to expand the project into Cadent’s other UK areas of operation – West Midlands, South Yorkshire, East Midlands, East of England and North London.

“We have thousands of employees, who each have lots of items of PPE, that right now just ends up in landfill after it’s no longer usable,” said project engineer Connor Weaver, Cadent, who is leading this North West pilot.

“This project isn’t going to save money, but it is the right thing to do, to help us become a sustainable organisation that deals with its waste in the right way.

Connor added: “I am extremely invested in sustainability, and so is Cadent.

“As part of the sustainability strategy we set out for RIIO-2, we have sustainability goals and we have to satisfy the criteria we set out.

“These bins can help that, as a small but important step.

"It’s helping shift our thinking and doing the right thing.

“Carbon management is so important for the future of our business, and every business.

"When the opportunity came my way to lead this project, I jumped at the chance.”

What can go in the bins?

Almost every item of PPE that is out-of-date, or no longer compliant, or unfit for purpose.

However, items that are, or could be, contaminated will not be placed in these bins.

For example, any that may contain asbestos.

These will be disposed of in the appropriate, normal manner.

Zero waste to landfill

Stacey Weeks, Cadent's Sustainability Manager, said: "We're committed to zero waste to landfill, part of our environmental commitment, as we strive to make the societies where we work greener.

"Initiatives such as PPE recycling are essential in helping us cut bulky items from our waste streams and deliver against that promise, but not only that we'll be helping keep homes warm as the waste will be turned into material to insulate homes.

"I'm delighted the team are pushing ahead with this.

"It really will make a big difference."

Cadent in the North West

Cadent operates four of the UK’s eight gas distribution networks – North West England, West Midlands, Eastern England and North London.

Its North West network stretches from the Lake District to Crewe and is home to 21,000 miles of distribution pipes (most of them underground) and hundreds of above ground installations.

If placed end to end, that amount of pipes would stretch from Liverpool to Sydney, Australia, and back again.

Around £800m will be invested in the North West’s gas network over the next five years.

This will maintain safe, secure supplies to homes, hospitals, schools, offices and other sites, as well as support the UK journey to net zero carbon emissions.

Backed by Cadent and many partners, the North West region is set to lead the way in a major shift away from using fossil gases and instead use hydrogen to decarbonise industry and help to heat homes.

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