YORKSHIRE Water is seeking a 'hole' new way to reduce waste during roadworks.
Every year, the firm digs up millions of tonnes of material when excavating trenches to repair and replace pipes.
But the need to maintain road standards means the material cannot always be used to refill the hole afterwards.
Instead, crushed limestone has to be taken to the site to help support the reinstated road.
The company said technology existed to recycle excavated material, making it suitable to be used to refill holes.
But the equipment needed to do this was too big to use at roadworks sites without increasing disruption for traffic and pedestrians.
Now Yorkshire Water has received a grant from the Government's Department of Trade and Industry to look at ways of designing small-scale equipment for use at roadwork sites.
Yorkshire Water principal engineer John Proctor said material excavated from the ground would be blended with additives on the site while work was carried out on water pipes.
When work was completed the recycled material would be returned to the ground straight away, speeding up the job and reducing the use of limestone.
If successful, the equipment could lead to a massive cut in the amount of waste material going to landfill sites.
Mr Proctor added: "We will be spending the next few months working closely with our partners to design and develop the small-scale equipment that could make this idea a success.
"In early 2006, we will find out if further cash is available to put our findings into practice.
"The potential benefit to the environment is massive, with less limestone needed to fill trenches.
"This technology could be used by any company that needs access to underground services.
"And road users should find that work is completed more quickly than expected."