Taking hydraulic hoses to New Zealand’s playgrounds
There’s nothing like a good news story. This one comes from Mark, our Inventory Specialist at our West Wind Farm in Mākara, Wellington.
We’re proud of our wind turbines. And we’re not shy to tell you how impressive we think they are. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to see one in real-life, you’ll know what we mean. They’re big pieces of kit and to keep them spinning, they require a lot of tender love and care. Our wind turbine technicians, engineers and specialists work hard to keep them in tip top shape. As you can imagine, they require fair few parts, all of which unfortunately have a shelf life.
Hydraulic hoses to be specific. Hydraulic hoses are used in countless ways - in excavators, forklifts, or hydraulically opening doors. They’re made of fluoropolymers and silicone, elastomers, metal, and thermoplastics. Composite or laminated materials are also common, and here lies a problem. They don’t decompose in a landfill.
Each of the Siemens 2.3mw wind turbines at West Wind farm has approximately 50 of these hydraulic hoses. That’s a whopping total of 3162 hoses (4,278kg) approaching the end of their life expectancy. That’s not to mention the turbines at our Te Āpiti, Te Uku, and White Hill wind farms which also have a lot of hoses that need to be recycled too.
This is where we run into a bit of a conflict, because you know how important sustainability is to us at Meridian. Luckily, so is creativity and innovation.
It’s never sat comfortably with us, having these hoses lying around, all used up with nowhere to go. So, two years ago, Mark started asking questions about whether there was a recycling solution to solve this problem. But after a few weeks of making enquiries, it became clear that there was no way to recycle hydraulic hoses in New Zealand. Deciding a more creative solution was needed, Mark contacted Macaulay Metals, a local scrap metal recycler in Wellington. Like us, they were surprised to hear that Aotearoa doesn’t have an option for recycling hydraulic hoses. They agreed to jump on board and work with Meridian towards finding an environmentally friendly way to dispose of hoses.
First things first – they needed to know if the steel could be separated from inside the hose. This meant experimenting with a rasper machine, which (for those who don’t spend much time with their local scrap metal recycler) is basically a machine that crushes or grinds down various materials.
We were excited to learn that it worked! Macaulay Metals subsequently invested in a brand-spanking new Italian rasper machine that cuts the hoses into manageable lengths before grinding them into tiny pieces. Then, with magnets and a lot of shaking the rubber separates from the steel.
We needed to find a solution that would ensure that the steel and rubber were going to be sustainably reused. So, Macaulay Metals arranged for the rubber granules to be re-manufactured into rubber matting for playgrounds in New Zealand, and for the steel to be reused by Hyundai Steel in Korea.
Two years on, we’ve found an innovative way of recycling hydraulic hoses in New Zealand. It’s one of the ways that we’re able to do our bit to reduce our impact on the environment; and helping our kids playgrounds feel a bit comfier is a nice perk too. Even better though, is that we’ve found a solution that’ll work for lots of kiwi companies – and hydraulic hoses from all sorts of machines from up and down the country can find new purposes in all sorts of kiwi playgrounds.
Meridian Power Up community fund
Our Power Up community fund supports local projects in the areas where we have wind farms and hydro stations. It’s one of the ways that we recognise the importance of local communities to our operations.
If you’re based near a Meridian wind farm and have a project you’d like to get off the ground, apply now! 2020 applications are open.