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Breakthrough brings bricks from filter cake

16 Dec 21 A Teesside recycling business is claiming a breakthrough in its quest to create building bricks from recycled waste clay.

Bob Borthwick, Feysal Shifa and Peter Scott with the prototype bricks
Bob Borthwick, Feysal Shifa and Peter Scott with the prototype bricks

Scott Bros has produced prototype bricks from fine-grained clay material – a by-product of its wash plant, which converts excavation and construction waste into sand and aggregates.

The company had been trying to find a binding agent to perfect the brick for several years and has now made the breakthrough it has been seeking.

In-house scientist Feysal Shifa has succeeded in producing three prototype bricks that are already attracting interest from one of the UK’s major housebuilders, together with an Australian company specialising in recycled products.

 Stockton-based Scott Bros says that while it has perfected a method of binding the material together, further research is now required to lower production costs to make the bricks commercially viable.

The family-run business has long been searching for a practical use for the clay material produced after recycling construction spoil in its £1m wash plant. It is now investing £4m in a second and much larger wash plant – capable of handling 50 tonnes of inert material per hour – in South Bank, Middlesbrough, next to the Teesworks site.

Currently the clay, known as filter cake, is virtually worthless and is used as BS-certified pond lining clay or inert engineering fill.

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Bob Borthwick, a director at Scott Bros, said: “A number of organisations around the world have been trying to perfect a cementitious product that can be made into a brick – but it is Scott Bros that has made the breakthrough right here on Teesside.

“If we can now lower the production cost, this could create jobs as well as a whole new revenue stream. To have even produced a protype brick is an amazing achievement.

“We have already been contacted by a major UK housebuilder which is keen to trial our bricks, along with a company in Australia. These recycled bricks could be a real gamechanger for the circular economy as well as the UK construction industry, helping reduce this country’s carbon footprint.”

Scott Bros set up its own laboratory earlier this year and employed Teesside University graduate Feysal Shifa as its recycling innovation engineer. He was also involved in previous research into the filter cake, conducted by Teesside University on behalf of Scott Bros, as part of a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) designed to help businesses innovate through academic support.

Feysal Shifa said: “While we need to carry out further research to perfect this recycled brick – a first of its kind – it represents a real breakthrough which could have far-reaching consequences as this country transitions to a net zero future.”

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