Sector overview

Waste management and water treatment both provide vital functions in ensuring public health and wellbeing. Due to the scale of this sector and the multitude of challenges that might be faced by the professionals working in it, there is a constant need to develop and improve upon existing science, systems, and technologies within this field. The goal of the UK government to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to a net of zero has heightened the need to investigate more efficient and less carbon-intensive treatment methods. It has also provided a great opportunity to develop new technologies to assist in recycling and waste management.

Sector trends

Developing new technologies

The focus on reducing our environmental impact has led to many investigations into new methods in recycling or water treatment. This may involve finding new techniques to recycle materials, or building more efficient water filters. Both of these examples would represent an increase in the knowledge of the field and would qualify as R&D.

Integrating new systems

It is sometimes possible to integrate several systems or processes together in such a way as to improve the overall efficiency of a procedure. This is very evident in the waste management sector, where waste must be categorized and sorted before being processed. Development in new systems, or investing how to combine systems  in such a way as to markedly improve a process, is a major opportunity for R&D in the sector.

Example of R&D in water, waste and recycling

One of our clients operates a recycling plant based in Hertfordshire and holds a significant number of council contracts to remove household recyclable waste. The company was keen to expand their operation to incorporate commercial contracts, and consequently began work on upscaling and futureproofing their recycling plant.

Our client purchased a new optical separator to allow for sorting of different plastic types; however, upon installation the separator was causing failures with other parts of the line. They therefore had to make changes to the existing machines on the line, including mechanical and electrical upgrades. The machine is now operational, however it is not running at the speed it should be; the company is still investigating what the issues might be with this.

Projects that seek to appreciably improve the overall efficiency or capability of a component or system can often contain qualifying R&D activities. In this instance, there exists what is known as ‘system uncertainty’ where the functionality and performance of each component individually is understood, however it is not certain how these components will operate when combined into one system.

The goal of the UK government to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to a net of zero has heightened the need to investigate more efficient and less carbon-intensive treatment methods. It has also provided a great opportunity to develop new technologies to assist in recycling and waste management.

How can we help?

Ben Conry previously worked for one of the largest financial services consultancies, working extensively throughout Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and East Anglia. He has experience working with companies in the waste, recycling and large-scale manufacturing sectors. Book your free consultation to discover qualifying activities in your business and see how much your claim could be worth.

Ben Conry

R&D Tax Consultant

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