circular economy transport waste

How to upcycle a bin lorry

Remanufacturing is an aspect of the circular economy that we don’t hear so much about. It’s defined as “a series of manufacturing steps acting on an end-of-life part or product in order to return it to like-new or better performance, with warranty to match.” It’s better than refurbishment, aiming to achieve a final product that is often better than it was when new, because it’s been upgraded and improved.

A variety of businesses use these techniques at scale, JCB’s parts network among the best known, and the whole idea may be about to get something of a boost in profile. Britain’s biggest remanufacturing plant is under construction at the moment, and it will be taking on an ambitious project: recycling municipal waste vehicles as electric trucks.

Councils across Britain run fleets of diesel bin lorries, on the recycling and bin rounds. As we move towards net zero, councils need to look at greener options. There are fully electric lorries on the market, but they are considerably more expensive than their diesel counterparts. So a company called Lunaz has invested in a process for upcycling existing diesels to electric. Since we’re talking about remanufacturing here, they don’t just switch out the drive train and add some batteries. They strip the whole vehicle down and return it box-fresh, with improved seats and cabs and all the latest technologies. And they do so for the same price as buying a new diesel truck, making it a much more affordable option.

As an added environmental benefit, each converted truck saves 80% of the embodied emissions from making a new one. It keeps existing vehicles on the road, extending their life by decades. It’s a good demonstration of how remanufacturing could deliver significant carbon savings if it were more widely adopted.

Similar things are happening elsewhere of course. I wrote recently about a firm converting buses to electric in Kenya, or ebike conversions in India. What Lunaz is doing goes further, by delivering a product that is as good as new, and I’d be interested to see what else remanufacturing might do in the transition to low carbon.

A little introductory video below, or see this longer episode from Fully Charged.

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