Former Ward Recycling site to process ‘flexible plastics’

A plastics recycling company has announced plans to invest £25 million in a former paper sorting plant on Teesside so it can process post-consumer and post-industrial flexible plastics.

Paper recycling company Ward Recycling Ltd ceased trading last February

Sterling Polymers acquired the 67,000 square metre site in Hartlepool in June 2021, after North Allerton-based paper recycling company Ward Recycling Ltd ceased trading last February (see letsrecycle.com story).

Once the development is complete, Sterling Polymers says its plant will be capable of processing 130,000 tonnes of flexible plastics per annum.

The facility will house two lines: a main line for flexible plastics including polypropylene (PP) packaging, LDPE, jazz, coloured and clear and a further line to be installed next year to handle waste electrical and electronic equipment-derived plastics and rigid plastics.

The recycling process for the flexible plastics will involve optical sorting, metal detection, screening and washing before extrusion into a granule that can be used in manufacturing.

Tim Croxford, Sterling Polymers’ operations and compliance director, told letsrecycle.com the plant would be the “UK’s first” to carry out the entire process, including washing and pelletising.

He said: “This is a good news story for an area with a high unemployment rate. Once we’re up and running the project will provide upwards of 100 jobs. The development falls really well within the regeneration of the Tees Valley.”


Sterling Polymers says it is currently going through the planning application process for the development of the site with Hartlepool borough council.

This latest commitment represents a very welcome vote of confidence in Hartlepool and the wider region
– Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor

The company hopes the “first phase” of the project will be complete by November, when the facility will begin to process flexible PP and polyethylene (PE) packaging materials, before washing and extruding to granules.

In a statement, Cllr Shane Moore, leader of Hartlepool borough council, said: “I recently had the chance to visit the Sterling Polymers site and learn more about their exciting plans for Hartlepool.

“This will be the UK’s first flexible packaging and re-processing plant of this type and I’m really looking forward to seeing facilities on the site expand over the coming years.”

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, added: “This massive £25 million investment will allow Sterling Polymers to deliver on their ambitious plans to expand their Hartlepool base and very importantly create 100 new roles locally.

“This latest commitment represents a very welcome vote of confidence in Hartlepool and the wider region, and I look forward to seeing Sterling Polymers continuing to grow, invest and create better quality jobs.”

Sterling Polymers

Mr Croxford said there were no plans to charge a gate fee to accept material at the facility. Instead, Sterling Polymers could offer a rebate for “good quality” material.

Sterling Polymers could start operating “tomorrow”, he added, processing material from an unnamed established plastics recycling company with the firm has links.

Mr Croxford said the plant retained the option of handling paper and sorting paper but has no immediate plans do so.


On 1 April, a plastic packaging tax came into effect in the UK, applying to packaging manufactured in or imported where the plastic used less than 30% recycled.

The tax is set at £200 per metric tonne of plastic packaging and aims to provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic material.

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

Another plastics recycling specialist, Jayplas, is in the final stages of building a washing and pelletising plant for used film in Loughborough (see letsrecycle.com story).

[EDITOR’S NOTE: There is no connection between Ward Recycling (company number 04373217) and Derbyshire-based metal and waste recycling company Donald Ward Ltd.]

Share this article with others

Subscribe for free

Subscribe to receive our newsletters and to leave comments.

Back to top

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest waste and recycling news straight to your inbox.