Alan McIver - Environmental Business


                                              Environmental Business

                      Making a living in Environmental Management

Many people consider improving on how we impact of the environment is just a matter of common sense. True. Nobody wants global warming, pollution, landslides, radioactivity etc.

I agree. Most of my working life has been spent in Environmental Businesses. I have had a commitment to helping try and improve my small area of influence whilst making a living out of that being my full-time work.

I'd like to share some of the projects and initiatives with you. Hope you find them interesting.

My name is Alan McIver. I'm 54 years old and live most of the year in Liverpool, England but also spend time in my other home near Manila, Philippines.

I am a graduate chemist and have a qualification in environmental law.

I've run a number of businesses including landfill sites, waste treatment centres, recycling facilities and waste to energy units. I currently own my own business in the UK (IEM Ltd) and another in Asia (IEM Recycling Philippines Inc.)

My main hobby is running. I have run 8 marathons including the 6 world majors. In my younger days I was a rugby player and martial artist.

When I started in environmental management in the 1980's nearly everything was sent to landfill. For me throwing everything into a hole in the ground was reprehensible and unsustainable. Since then I have spent a lot of time avoiding landfills and promoting recovery and recycling in many different countries.

Here's some examples:

Dental Amalgam. Yes that's right. The mercury fillings that dentists fill our teeth with then drill out again when decay wins the battle. Mercury is toxic and persistent in the environment. It's poisonous to humans- so how can amalgam be recycled? Well in the amalgam there is almost 25% Silver and that's valuable. I send amalgam to a company in the Netherlands who separates the silver from the mercury. The silver is resold and the mercury is re-used in specialist medicines.

Here's a picture of some silver recovered from old dental amalgam (that's me on the photograph).

I also take fixer and developer solutions used in dental photography and recover the silver from those and from used X-Ray film.

Waste Chemicals as Liquid Fuel:

I blend all sorts of chemicals together to a specification so they can be used as a replacement for coal, oil or gas. These include laboratory chemicals, waste solvents, waste oils, adhesives and paints.

In one company in the UK we replaced all their traditional fossil fuels with blended chemicals saving them £200,000 per year. This won the Chemical Industries Low Carbon Award.

By using these materials productively it saves them being land-filled or incinerated neither of which has any benefit.

At present I recycle about 10,000 tonnes of material per year in this way.

Diapers/ Hygiene Products:

A huge problem. Filling landfills all over the world.

Diapers are typically made of wood pulp and plastic- both of which are valuable.

I am investigating a process which breaks down the wood pulp into a compost material. The plastic is also separated out and recycled. This will mean hygiene wastes can finally be recycled and lots of landfills will be emptier than they would have been.

Energy from Solid Wastes:

I am blending about 40,000 tonnes of solid waste per year as an alternative fuel to coal.

This is typically plastics, fibres, wood, tyres etc. all of which previously was sent to landfill.

I take the materials shred them down to <30mm then run through a series of magnets to remove all metals. The resulting solid fuel has 75% of the energy of coal and is a valuable commodity. Typical users are cement kilns, paper mills and power stations.

I'm sending this material to companies in Scandinavia, Europe and the UK. Demand is high so we can probably recover many more materials as energy in the future and divert from landfill disposal.

Recovering Contaminated Soil:

Working with a company in Holland I send solid hazardous wastes such as solvent residues, paints, adhesives, chemical distillation residues etc. in drums to be used to create energy to clean contaminated soils in the Netherlands. The soil is placed in a large kiln and the hazardous wastes are shredded in an inert atmosphere then introduced to the kin to produce energy and clean the soil.

Once thermally cleaned the soil is used in land remediation and construction programmes in the Netherlands.

Currently I send about 10,000 tonnes of material for recovery into this process.

Plastic Recycling:

I take materials from the automotive industry, chemical industry, food manufacturing and local authorities to name but a few and recover different types of plastic materials from the waste. From such a mixed input I move out 60 different grades of product used in construction, furniture, pipework etc. This is sent to customers in Europe and Asia. Currently this option has saved over 10,000 tonnes of material per annum going to landfills.


Reviewing the recovery of plaster-casts from hospitals and medical facilities.

Plaster casts contain Gypsum which is widely used in the construction industry.

Very optimistic I will be recovering casts soon.

The above are just a few examples of projects I am currently involved with which:

a) benefit the environment

b) save the customers money

c) pay my wages

Working in Environmental Business is fascinating, challenging and ground-breaking. It's a new science. There are no text books on how to run or build an environmental business- it's just a case of experience, common-sense, passion and hard-work.

I have had an idea for a while now to develop a degree level course for working in or developing an environmental business. There are other environmental science offerings out there but none which effectively instruct on how to make environmental management a worthwhile career- which it certainly is. I have had discussions with a number of institutions in Asia and there does seem to be a high level of interest- I would be interested to know how others felt about this.

I hope this has been of some interest to you. I could share more in the future if there is interest.

Alan McIver (c)  May 2017