Titanium dioxide, the pigment which gives whiteness to everything from car paint to paper, is found in literally hundreds of products. But so now is the waste from Tioxide's eight titanium dioxide plants around the world. Reprocessed, recycled and repackaged, it is turning up in everything from fertilisers and plasterboard to fizzy drinks, animal feeds and water purifiers.
John Russell, Tioxide's environment director, reckons that the company, a subsidiary of ICI, is adding pounds 20m a year to its bottom line as a result of recycling. Last year, Tioxide produced about half a million tonnes of titanium dioxide. In the process it also created 2.4 million tonnes of waste but nearly one-third of this was recycled and resold. The waste products - red and white gypsum, carbon dioxide and iron salts - mainly go into agriculture and construction but nearly a quarter of the recycled material finds its way into the water treatment and beer and beverages markets.
The target for Rob Louw, who runs the materials business, is to double annual savings from the sale of recycled waste to pounds 40m a year. Most waste from Tioxide's eight plants - two in the UK at Grimsby and on Teeside and six in Europe, Malaysia, South Africa and the US - is reprocessed and sold locally because it is bulky and low value.
From a standing start in 1993, the materials business employs 250 people out of a workforce of 4,000 and is now viewed as a leading- edge division, even though it accounts for less than 5 per cent of sales.