Fife based firm, Seeking Simplicity, is a product design company motivated by developing innovative new products that are environmentally friendly, ergonomic and practical.

Listening to consumer demand and working with trusted subcontractors they have developed an innovative new solar powered recycling device (SPRU) for glass, plastic bottles and cans, to increase the capacity of recycling units and bring significant cost and environmental benefits.

Currently empty glass/plastic bottles and cans occupy a large volume mostly air, limiting the capacity of a bottle bank. Seeking Simplicity have developed a solution that can smash glass bottles into smaller pieces, and crush plastic bottles and cans thus increasing the number of bottles and cans in any one-bottle bank and reducing the number of trips required by council lorries or contractors to empty them.

Mounted on housing units for existing recycling bottle banks and/or wheelie bins, the SPRU has been developed in two stages. The First is  the glass bottle breaker (SPBB – Solar Powered Bottle Breaker) and the second is the development of the plastic bottle and can crusher/compactor (SPRC – Solar Powered Recycling compactor). Initial tests show that the SPBB will result in three to four times fewer collections of recycled glass.

Seeking Simplicity are trying to address a reduction in the mileage that is covered from collection to bulking stations via the 50,000 bottle banks in the UK on 20,000 sites.  The added benefits include reductions in fuel and vehicle maintenance costs; labour for the operating of the vehicles transporting the recycled glass bottles; CO2 emissions and landfill. The device will also assist the Government’s target of reducing CO2 emissions by 2060.

The Business Challenge

Specialist engineering expertise was required by the Seeking Simplicity team to create a prototype; which maximises the effectiveness and efficiency of the main elements of a solar powered unit. Assistance was also required for incorporating practical safety features for the prototype.

The Solution

Seeking Simplicity approached Interface – The knowledge connection for business - to help source academic support.  Interface facilitated a partnership with Dr Tapas Kumar Mallick at Heriot-Watt University, who is a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering and Director of Studies in MSc Renewable Energy Engineering.

Belinda Kennedy comments “We have been fortunate to receive funding under an EDTC Feasibility Award to collaborate with the team at Heriot-Watt University on the first phase of the development of the glass bottle breaker (SPBB). The study has examined the solar power requirements, panel size, power storage needs and the estimated cost for the prototype system. “

“Having limited experience of solar energy systems, the knowledge gained was extremely useful in allowing us to estimate a cost base for the SPBB, as well as giving us an understanding of the technical implications and an insight into any commercial risks.”

“Following conversations with a number of Local Authorities and recycling bin manufacturer, we have initial interest in the SPBB but advised that they would be more supportive of a complete package that covered glass, plastic and can solar powered recycling. We therefore decided to extend the concept to cover the other two areas and have now completed the second phase of the concept development for the plastic bottle and can crusher (SPRC). We are in the process of applying for the second phase funding through Renewnet in order to continue working with Dr Mallick on the plastic bottle and can crusher.”