UK-based autoclave waste specialist Wilson Bio-Chemical has opened its micro autoclave fibre production plant for turning municipal solid waste (MSW) into biomass fibre that can be converted into chemicals or fuels.

The facility has been developed with the help of the University of York subsidiary, the Biorenewables Development Centre (BDC) and is based at the BDC’s site just outside York. This new technology aims to divert substantial amounts of mixed waste from landfill and produce a range of chemicals and fuels to replace the use of fossil-resource-based products.

An estimated 47 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) is produced in the UK every year, around 40% of which is sent to landfill.

Wilson Bio-Chemical has developed and installed a specialised, rotating autoclave which can treat the biological portion of MSW (mainly food waste, garden waste, paper and cardboard) with steam and high pressure and convert it into a sterile fibre (Wilson Fibre). Biorefinery specialists, the BDC, have provided support and expertise in the development of the new production plant, which at full commercial scale can process 150,000 tonnes of waste per year.

EU-funded research

Wilson is now working with the BDC and with the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) at the University of York on a variety of projects to test the fermentation process as well as the feasibility for use in bioenergy. It is also collaborating on an EU-funded research project aiming to effectively turn this fibre into biofuel as well as high-value chemicals (e.g. butanol, hydrogen, acetone and ethanol).

“The Micro Autoclave Fibre Production Plant is an important step in the continuing development of what we believe is a game-changing technology, diverting unsorted MSW from landfill and producing valuable feedstock from a renewable source for the biofuel and biochemical markets,” said Tom Wilson, managing director and principal engineer of Wilson Bio-Chemical.

“We are pleased to be working with Wilson Bio-Chemical on their innovative technology and also pleased that they have chosen to site their new pilot-scale plant at the BDC, in order to benefit from our biorefining expertise and facilities,” said Joe Ross, director of the BDC.

The plant was formally opened by Barry Dodd, chair of the York, North York and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership. The BDC receives funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

Wilson Bio-Chemical has won a series of competitively-funded projects to develop applications for their product, including ERDF funding for the Micro Autoclave; Innovate UK and BESTF funding for the development of the technology.