Less swings, more roundabouts for these ASX companies driving the circular economy
As the world grapples with the pressing need for sustainability in an era of heightened environmental concerns, there is a greater shift towards a circular economy, which represents a transformative departure from the traditional linear model of ‘take-make-dispose’.
Instead, a circular economy prioritises resource conservation, waste reduction, and sustainable practices.
Through strategies like recycling, reusing, and remanufacturing, a circular economy strives to keep materials in use for as long as possible, effectively closing the loop.
There are several benefits of a circular economy including:
Australia, like many nations on a global scale, has committed to moving towards a circular economy.
At the Environment Ministers’ meeting late last year, all Australian Environment Ministers committed to working with the private sector and industry to foster markets to achieve a circular economy by 2030.
Furthermore, the Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group has been established to advise the Federal Government on opportunities, regulatory and commercial barriers, innovation needs and overall progress toward’s Australia’s plan of being a circular economy.
There are several ASX companies positioning to be a part of the circular economy. Here are some we’ve noticed.
The biomaterial tech company uses an eco-friendly fermentation process to grow fibres that could become a sustainable alternative to conventional plant-derived cellulose fibres.
NC6’s process converts fermented waste from various large-scale industries, including food and agriculture, to produce environmentally fibres for the textile industry.
NC6 and R&D partner Birla Cellulose recently completed the second pilot spin of their high tenacity, tree-free trademarked Nullarbor cellulose fibres.
Cellulose is the hidden polymer forming part of items used in everyday life such as clothing, paper and hygiene products.
The second pilot run successfully achieved its target objective to increase the microbial cellulose content, producing the first batch of Nullarbor-30.
The spin produced ~150kg of Nullarbor-30, consisting of 30% microbial cellulose and 70% FSC-certified wood pulp.
The latest spin also produced a further ~90kg of Nullarbor-20. NC6 and Birla Cellulose produced 260kg of Nullarbor-20 during their first spin in February 2022, which has been sent to several collaborators and converted into yarns, fabrics, and garments for testing and evaluation before uptake by partners.
IPX is taking titanium scrap and recycling it into titanium powder for fabrication of new products needed today.
The company this week announced it has agreed to scope of work (SoW) to supply titanium metal components for Ford Motor Company using its unique 100% recycled, low-carbon titanium metal.
Ford and IPX have been actively collaborating to design, test and additively manufacture a series of high-quality titanium components for future Ford Performance production vehicles.
Ford Performance is the high-performance and racing division of the Ford Motor Company, well known for a leading range of performance cars such as the F150 Raptor, Bronco Raptor, Mustang Mach 1 and the Shelby GT500.
Ford aims to be the only manufacturer competing in Formula 1, Le Mans 24 Hours with Mustang GT3, WRC with the MSport Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1, Baja 1000 with Ranger Raptor and Bronco, and NASCAR and Supercars with Mustang.
The SoW follows a detailed program of quality and strength testing of IPX’s low-carbon, circular titanium metal. Ford’s Sustainability and Advanced Materials divisions undertook a range of testing procedures, verifying that IPX’s titanium surpassed the required parameters set under ASTM International standards.
IPX CEO Taso Arima said the company’s mission is to be the leading developer of low-to-net-zero carbon, sustainable, critical material supply chains for advanced industries including space, aerospace, electric vehicles, and 3D printing in the US.
He said although the US is the largest consumer of high-quality titanium in the world, it doesn’t currently produce any of the titanium metal that it needs.
Headquartered in the US, with operations currently in Tennessee and Utah, IPX is also listed on the NASDAQ (IPX).
Final engineering and design for its 125 tonne per annum Titanium Demonstration Facility (TDF) in Virginia, using its breakthrough Hydrogen Assisted Metallothermic Reduction (HAMR) technology, is nearing completion, with first titanium powder production targeted for the first quarter of 2024.
There are also defined plans for a simple modular expansion that will transform the TDF into the Titanium Commercial Facility (TCF-1) with production capacity of 1,125tpa in 2025, which will make it one of the world’s largest producers of titanium metal powders, and the only producer using 100% titanium scrap metal as a feedstock.
LIT is playing a significant role in the recycling of spent Li-ion batteries by using its proprietary extraction processes, which allow for the conversion of all types of lithium silicates, including mine waste, as well as unused fines from spodumene processing, into valuable lithium chemicals.
Using these chemicals as a starting point, LIT, together with its wholly-owned subsidiaries VSPC and Envirosteam Australia, aims to manufacture advanced battery components for the global battery industry.
The overall objective of LIT and its subsidiaries is to integrate the extraction, processing, and recycling of lithium in a vertically aligned approach. This approach not only promotes sustainability in the mining and battery manufacturing sectors but also enhances supply chain security while reducing environmental impacts throughout the entire process.
NMT is an emerging producer of sustainable battery materials, aiming to extract nickel, cobalt, and lithium from production scrap and end-of-life lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) through a joint venture (JV) with the renowned global plant builder and German engineering outfit SMS group.
Known as the ‘Primobius JV,’ this partnership operates a commercial disposal service at its 10tpd Shredding ‘Spoke’ facility located in Germany. Notably, NMT serves as the recycling technology partner for Mercedes Benz.
Furthermore, NMT has entered into a collaborative agreement with Critical Metals Ltd, a Scandinavian mineral development company, to jointly assess the feasibility of establishing a recycling facility in Scandinavia. This facility would focus on recovering and processing high-grade vanadium products from vanadium-bearing steel by-products.
As Critical Metals’ largest shareholder, NMT currently holds a 15.4% stake in the company’s issued capital.
In addition to these ventures, NMT owns the Barrambie titanium and vanadium project in Western Australia. This project has obtained a mining permit and has undergone exploration and evaluation expenditure of approximately $30 million since 2003.
While the Twiggy Forrest founded FMG is one of the world’s largest iron ore businesses it is working to diversify its earnings sources into the green energy space through its subsidiary Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), which aims to take a global leadership position in the renewable energy and green products industry.
FFI has a vision to make green hydrogen, made from renewable energy, producing zero pollution, one of the most widely used commodities in the world.
Last year FFI and Covestro, a world-leading, Germany-based supplier of high-tech polymer materials, announced a long-term agreement for the supply of green hydrogen and its derivatives, including green ammonia.
“We are delighted that FFI shares our circular economy vision and is willing to take courageous steps to foster the urgently needed market ramp-up for green hydrogen,” Covestro CEO Dr Markus Steilemann said.
“Our collaboration with FFI underlines our ambition to pioneer the transition towards a circular economy and climate-neutral production.
“Green hydrogen and its derivatives play a key role for the chemical industry, both as an alternative feedstock and a source of clean energy.”
FFI has also purchased UK company Williams Advanced Engineering, a leading provider of battery and electrification technologies.
PWN continues to make significant progress in building a portfolio of tech for a range of complex wastewater and process streams traditionally considered difficult to treat.
The company is developing a transformational brine-processing solution for the coal seam gas (CSG) industry, predominantly in Queensland. Consisting primarily of methane, CSG is absorbed into coal and held in place by underground water pressure.
To extract it, wells are drilled through the coal seams, which reduces pressure and releases natural gas from the coal. The process produces vast volumes of highly saline water, otherwise known as brine, an unavoidable by-product of the CSG extraction process.
Over the last decade, the industry as a whole has spent hundreds of million dollars to evaluate solutions to solve this problem, given the only viable alternative identified to date, waste salt disposal, is both deeply unpopular and very expensive.
PWN’s solution to the saline brine problem is its proprietary tech called iBC, which takes the toxic waste brines, recovers fresh water and turns the waste salts into three industrial chemical products for use in the Queensland market.
The products include caustic soda for alumina refining, industrial grade salt, and agricultural lime for use on acidic soils in the local farming industry.
“We don’t just treat the brine, we’re actually producing industrial products here and selling them in Queensland. So there’s a whole circular-economy angle here, too,” Group MD and CEO Bahay Ozcakmak said.
The Queensland Government earlier this year released the Coal seam gas brine management action plan, which prioritises the reduction of waste and the promotion of a circular economy.
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