Southern Regional College (SRC) were delighted to host the end celebration event for the Rural Economic Accelerator Programme (REAP), in conjunction with South West College (SWC) and Queens University, on Wednesday 14 December in their Armagh campus.
The REAP project was initiated by the UK Community Renewal Fund to support regeneration in three key priority areas: supporting people in the Mid Ulster and Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Area Councils into employment; development of a retrofit upskilling programme and assisting SME businesses within the Council Areas with the development of decarbonisation strategies and provision of growth opportunities in green technology.
The celebration event showcased local business efforts to propel themselves to carbon net zero and highlighted recent course offerings by SRC and SWC where over 120 tradepersons were upskilled in retrofitting. Retrofitting skills include installing external insulation, air tightness and ventilation.
On the day, local businesses showcased progressive actions taken to improve the carbon footprint and propel society towards Carbon Net Zero. Mark Hamill, Technical Manager at Recon Waste provided an overview of projects Recon Waste is undertaking in order to provide cost effective recycling services.
Recon’s recycling efforts include street sweeping, waste sorting and washing using custom built technology. Additionally, the business treats water sludge from water plants to produce recycled soil for agriculture industry. Recon embodies the principle of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ as they continue to transform business models by reducing carbon footprint through improved logistics operations.
Attendees were further enlightened by the remarkable work of Plaswire Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Andrew Billingsley spoke of how multiple non-recyclable plastics, destined for landfill are transformed into building materials for use in the construction sector.
Plaswire challenges perceptions of recycling being too costly as products produced are more cost efficient than traditional construction materials. Typical construction materials such as concreate produce vast amounts of carbon emissions, from initial manufacture to subsequent transportation. Plaswire’s products are more economically viable than traditional construction materials with the company investigating plastic alternatives to motorway gulley water run offs.
Invest NI were in attendance providing detail of support packages available to businesses in the race to Net Zero. Invest NI provide free energy saving consultations to businesses regarding potential areas for energy saving.
Additionally, Resource Efficiency Capital Grants are available, with successful grant applications receiving 30% of costings up to a maximum support amount of £50,000 to improve material efficiency.
The REAP programme has supported businesses and individuals in efforts to reach Carbon Net Zero and has highlighted that carbon neutrality is achievable via continued innovation. Carbon recovery that promotes job creation, sustainable growth, and protects against future threats is now a viable prospect.
Ciaran McManus, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, South West College commented:
“The REAP programme was initiated with a common goal; the creation of a sustainable and prosperous Mid-South West (MSW) region in NI. By looking at issues and opportunities, businesses have been supported in leading the way to carbon net zero and through continued efforts, industry can reach their full potential.”
Pictured: Attendees at REAP celebration event (L-R): Dr Jim Clarke, Invest NI; Ciaran McManus, Assistant Chief Executive Officer, South West College; Ryan Donaghy, UK Levelling Up Fund; and Catriona Regan, Head of External Engagement, Southern Regional College.