Making it Work

Soltec looks to future-proof with €6m investment in recycling of hazardous waste

The Mullingar-based business saves around 4,500 tons of carbon every year by turning solvents, aerosols and corrosive materials into other products in a sustainable way

David Corcoran, technical director of Soltec: ‘Between distillation and fuel recovery, we save about 4,500 tons of carbon every year. It’s a good story to be able to tell.’ Picture by Barry Cronin

Soltec is a hazardous waste business that turns waste into other products, including fuel and paint thinner, to reduce carbon output and improve sustainability.

Based in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, the business was founded by Michael Corcoran in 1994 and has 25 staff.

“Our primary objective is collecting hazardous waste from our clients. We deal with companies ranging in size from large multinational pharmaceutical businesses to small companies that only have one or two employees,” David Corcoran, technical director of Soltec and son of Michael Corcoran, told the Business Post.

“For any company that deals with solvents, aerosols or corrosive materials, we can collect the waste and bring it back to our facility in Mullingar. Once it gets there we can test it and decide what to do with it.”

The business performs three different functions in-house. It distils waste solvents into a clean liquid, including paint thinners and hand sanitiser. It produces fuel from the residue in the distillation process and blends it into a mix that is used by the cement sector as a replacement for coal. The third process involves the recycling of aerosol containers, with the metal recycled while the liquid is used for the fuel products the business develops.

“Between distillation and fuel recovery, we save about 4,500 tons of carbon every year. It’s a good story to be able to tell. When the business started in 1994, people weren’t thinking about sustainability and the environmental aspects to the same degree,” Corcoran said.

The younger Corcoran joined the company in 2011 after studying environmental science in DIT, what is now Technological University Dublin.

“I always had an interest in business in general and in what my father was doing. The engineering side was how I got involved, working up new ideas for the business,” Corcoran said.

The idea grew from a previous business Michael Corcoran had set up, which was selling paint thinner. Clients were asking if he could manage their waste and that led to the elder Corcoran creating a circular economy business at a time when the term wasn’t commonly known.

“You have to remember that the Environmental Protection Agency had only been formed in 1992. The general ideas around legislation of waste were quite primitive when my dad started,” Corcoran said.

“The company grew organically but it was small. When I joined in 2011, we sat down to work out what we could do with it.”

The business began engaging with Enterprise Ireland at that stage and got funding for research and development which aided its sales of paint thinners. It also helped the business in developing the fuel product for the cement sector in 2020.

“It helped us grow our reputation. When dealing with the pharma sector it’s vital to have that. We’ve been through three research and development projects with Enterprise Ireland over that time, with the most recent being creating the fuel product,” Corcoran said.

“We’ve invested €4.8 million in a new facility in recent years. We’re investing another €1.5 million in more machinery to increase our throughput. It’s a time of intense development and we’re looking to future-proof our business in a way that has an environmental benefit but also benefits the business.”