Churchill opens Viridor’s £317m Avonmouth plastics plant

Recycling minister Jo Churchill officially opened waste management company Viridor’s polymer reprocessing facility at Avonmouth, near Bristol, today (3 March).

Viridor opened the polymer reprocessing plant at its Avonmouth facility in March

Viridor says the Avonmouth Resource Recovery facility will cut UK plastic waste exports by around 8%.

The company described the facility as a “UK first” as it co-locates the plastics reprocessing plant and an energy from waste (EfW) plant in one building.

The plastics reprocessing facility will reprocess more than 80,000 tonnes of material from bottles, pots, tubs, and trays every year, producing 60,000 tonnes of recycled plastic, including 18,000 tonnes of food-grade PET.

The EfW plant will process 320,000 tonnes of household residual waste annually, generating more than 300 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity per year, enough to power 84,000 homes.

Mrs Churchill said: “Viridor’s ambitious new facility will be a game changer in our work to recycle more of our waste and to reduce our use of polluting plastics – cutting exports of waste and making better use of our resources.”

She added: “The new Avonmouth site shows we can create jobs that have a positive impact on our environment, cut our CO2 emissions, and give our plastics new life.”

Avonmouth

Though the Avonmouth facility was initially scheduled to be operational in 2020, this was delayed in part because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Inside the polymer reprocessing plant at Avonmouth

Following the opening of the facility, Viridor says it can now recycle more than 90% of the plastics it previously exported in the UK.

Plastic recycling at the facility will save 126,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year, the company says, the equivalent of taking more than 67,000 cars off the road.

The facility has created 125 new jobs, Viridor says, and more than 500 people were employed onsite at the peak of its construction.

Twenty principal contractors were engaged during the build, with 40% of orders placed with firms from the South West of England and Wales.

Kevin Bradshaw, Viridor’s CEO, said: “Avonmouth is a clear statement of Viridor’s commitment to the UK’s decarbonisation and levelling-up agendas.

“Our investment is also a major step forward for our company as we work towards achieving net zero emissions by 2040 and become the first net negative emissions waste management company in the UK by 2045.”

Plastics recycling

Viridor says five additional plastics reprocessing facilities “on this scale” are needed in the UK to end all plastic waste exports.

In December 2021, Viridor called on the government to ban plastic exports from the UK (see letsrecycle.com story).

Kevin Bradshaw is Viridor’s CEO

The company has released analysis suggesting that around 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year could be saved by increasing plastic packaging recycling rates to 70%, up from 51% today, the equivalent of taking around 685,000 cars off the road (see letsrecycle.com story).

Mr Bradshaw said: “The scale of what we are doing at Avonmouth shows that ending the export of plastic waste from UK shores can become a reality.

“It is right that consumers who pay for recycling see the benefits in local investment and jobs.

“Five more reprocessing facilities like Avonmouth could end UK plastic waste exports and generate a third of a billion pounds in new investment.

“This will create over 600 jobs in communities across the country and put the UK on track to deliver critical targets for recycling and net zero.”

In May 2021, Viridor published a decarbonisation plan committing to reaching Net Zero by 2040 and to becoming “the UK’s first” net negative emissions waste management company by 2045 (see letsrecycle.com story).

Tax

A Plastic Packaging Tax is to come into effect in the UK on 1 April, applying to packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK where the plastic used in its manufacture is less than 30% recycled (see letsrecycle.com story).

The tax will be set at £200 per metric tonne of plastic packaging.

The tax aims to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic material in plastic packaging.

This has seen some grades of recycled plastic commanding higher prices in recent months.

Viridor has signed contracts with companies such as packaging producer Klöckner Pentaplast (kp), chemicals company INEOS, and consumer goods company Unilever to supply them with recycled plastic (see letsrecycle.com story).

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